Ghosting in the Executive Job Market Stinks, Yet It’s Provocatively Prevalent

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.

Cons of Working with a Recruiter

Cons of Working with a Recruiter

We have previously discussed the good that can come from a positive relationship with a recruiter; however, there are bound to be both positives and negatives in any recruiting situation.

Recruiters may be trying to fill positions that do not exist.

If you are familiar at all with companies that assist employers in hiring, you have probably come across this situation. You apply for a job that sounds like a great fit, jump through all the hoops only to deduce that there was in fact no actual position. Most likely, the company was beefing up their prospective employee pool but not actually hiring yet. This can be a frustrating waste of time, especially if you are currently working and taking time off to meet with recruiters. Keep your head in the game and ask important, informational questions early in the process. If there isn’t enough information available about a position and the timeline involved, chances are the position doesn’t exist today (although it theoretically could be coming available in the future).

You may be applying for positions that aren’t a good fit because you don’t have all of the information.

When dealing with zealous recruiters, you may come across one or two that are so driven to get someone hired that your needs and desires get pushed to a back burner. In these cases, you may be put into some uncomfortable situations and be found interviewing for positions that would never work for you. Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, be honest and tell the hiring personnel that you may not be well suited for the position they are interviewing for. If it feels appropriate you can ask if there might be a position open in a different department that you would be qualified to apply for.

You may be undersold.

At times it can benefit the recruiter to get you into a position at the lowest rate possible, maybe without much of a raise from your current position. While recruiters are working with both you and the prospective employer and hope to please you both, they are ultimately best serving the interests of the employer. They might try to undersell you in an effort to fill a position quickly.

To protect yourself, you will want to talk to many different recruiters and do your own compensation research to identify what you are truly worth. You may want to keep your past salary information private to gain as much information from them as possible. Remember, there are no rules where this is concerned; it is your right to keep your personal information private. You need to keep your own needs front and center. If you don’t feel like you are being valued appropriately, walk away.

Remember recruiters find people for jobs, not the other way around.

While most recruiters will try to do right by their candidates, it is important to remember who they are really working for. Be aware of the possibility that they might make promises they can’t keep—perhaps because they do not have as much insider information as the hiring executive does. Also, never sign a document stating that they are the only recruiter that you will work with. Above all, don’t pay them anything. A good recruiter, working in your best interest while simultaneously serving the needs of their direct customers (companies seeking rare talent), won’t be taking additional payments from you for current or future obligations. Be alert, and keep ultimate control of your future in your own hands.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Guide to Leaving Your Job

Guide to Leaving Your Job

Job Search Library Categories

Applying for a Job

Branding

Career Change

Career Planning

Evaluating a Job Offer

Interviewing

LinkedIn

Looking for a Job

Losing Your Job

Networking

Resume

Social Media

Guide to Leaving Your Job

Every few months, you’ll see an example in the news media of someone who left their job in dramatic fashion. Examples include the JetBlue flight attendant who famously deployed the emergency chute on the runway, or the

Goldman Sachs executive who wrote a “Why I Am Leaving” article in the New York Times.

These stories catch our attention because they showcase an over-the-top way to exit a company — but they are also cautionary tales for jobseekers. When at all possible, don’t burn bridges at your current employer. You never know when you’ll run across your co-workers — or current supervisors — in the future.

When you’re thinking of leaving your job, there are things to consider in three phases of the separation — things to think about before you even begin to apply for a new job, considerations to keep in mind as you look for a new job while you’re still employed, and how to leave your current job gracefully.

Before You Start Your Job Search

When you decide to start looking for another position, take the time to review your old files and make a list of your accomplishments in the position. If you haven’t been collecting accomplishments all along, now is the time to start. This information will be useful in developing your résumé as well as in interviews. Make copies of documents that support your accomplishments (unless company policy prohibits it). You may not have access to this information once you submit your resignation — especially if you are asked to leave immediately.

The first thing to consider when you’re ready to resign is whether your company has a policy or guideline about how much notice you should provide. You should also check your employee handbook and any employment agreement you have with the company. If you’ve worked at the company for any length of time, you should have some idea of how resignations are handled. Does your boss ask the resigning employee to leave immediately, or do they generally ask him or her to stay on until a replacement is found? How much time is it customary to offer to stay? You should always offer to stay two weeks, but have a contingency plan in place if you’re asked to leave immediately.

Before you notify your supervisor of your resignation, make sure you are prepared to leave. You don’t want to tip anyone off that you’re leaving — things like taking your photos off your desk or boxing up personal items on your bookshelf are noticeable — but you can quietly clean out your desk and files.

This includes cleaning off your work computer. If you have personal documents on your computer, save them to a jump drive or CD, and then delete the originals from your computer. You can forward any personal email messages you want to save to your non-work email address, and then delete the originals. (Be sure to delete messages in your “sent mail” folder too.) If you have online accounts that use your business email address for the log-in, change the accounts over to your personal email. If you downloaded software to your computer that isn’t related to your job, be sure to uninstall it. And, finally, learn how to delete your computer’s browsing history, cookies, and saved passwords from your Internet browser.

When cleaning out your desk and files, shred or trash old files that won’t be needed by your successor.

If you bring home a few personal items at a time, it won’t be as noticeable. The goal is to be able to easily bring home all of your personal belongings in one or two boxes — and, to be able to leave your job without leaving behind any personal information.

Conducting a Job Search While You’re Still Employed

Research shows it’s easier to find a job when you have a job, but there are special considerations you must take into account when conducting a job search while you’re still employed.

In correspondence with prospective employers or recruiters, mention that you are conducting a “confidential” job search. You can use a phrase such as “I am contacting you in confidence about this position.” However, keep in mind that prospective employers are under no obligation to respect your wishes. Also be careful when replying to blind advertisements (ones that do not provide a name for the prospective employer). More than one jobseeker has accidentally submitted a résumé to his or her current employer this way.

Don’t conduct your job search on the company’s time — or dime. Reserve your jobseeking activities to before work, on your lunch hour, or after work. If necessary, take personal leave (not sick time) to go on interviews. (You can simply say you have an appointment.) Don’t use your company computer (including accessing your personal email account) for your job search. Don’t take employment-related phone calls during your work time; allow these messages to go to your voice mail, and return the calls during breaks or before or after work. And don’t list your employer’s phone number or your business email address on your job search documents.

How you dress during your job search can also be tricky. If you work in a “casual” workplace, wearing “interview attire” to work can be a red flag that something is up. You may want to change into your more formal clothes before an interview (don’t change at work!) — or schedule job interviews on a day when you’re not working.

Providing job references is also likely to be an issue. Even if you’ve told the prospective employer that your current employer doesn’t know that you’re looking, you may still want to mention that you do not want the company to contact your current employer for a reference until they are ready to extend a job offer, so as not to jeopardize your current position. In this situation, you may need to provide several references outside of your company who can speak to your credentials and expertise.

Put your LinkedIn profile up sooner rather than later. Developing a comprehensive LinkedIn profile — and building up your network of contacts — is something to do right away. If you create one before you start your job search, you can honestly say that you’re doing it to create a network of contacts to assist you in being more effective in your current position. Having a newly-minted LinkedIn profile (especially one that mentions you’re open to “new opportunities”) can tip off your supervisor (or co-workers) that you’re looking for a new position. Routinely updating an existing profile, however, is not as suspicious.

How — and When — to Tell Your Supervisor That You’re Leaving

There’s rarely an “easy” way to let your current boss know that you’re leaving the company. This is especially true if you have been with the company a significant amount of time, or if you have a strong relationship with your supervisor.

If you’ve had discussions with your supervisor in previous performance evaluations about your desire to move up, but these opportunities don’t exist within the company, your departure may not be a surprise. If your company was recently sold or acquired — or if your department has had a lot of recent turnover — that fact that you are leaving may not be unexpected. But if you are a key player, your resignation may be surprising, and may even cause big problems for the company.

The simplest guideline is to let your current supervisor know as soon as you can. For most jobseekers, that means as soon as you’ve secured your new position (including getting the particulars of the new position in writing, if possible).

Writing Your Resignation Letter

Is a letter of resignation necessary? It depends. Many jobseekers simply tell their boss verbally that they are leaving — but there are several advantages to actually writing a resignation letter.

  • It can help start the conversation about you leaving the company. You can simply give it to your boss and say, “I’ve prepared this letter of resignation to let you know I’ve accepted another job.”
  • A resignation letter can provide you with an outline to discuss the issues related to your departure from the company (timing, unused vacation or sick leave, etc.)
  • It can help you leave the job on the right foot — without burning bridges, and leaving the door open for future opportunities, should they arise.

STRUCTURE OF A LETTER OF RESIGNATION

Letters of resignation should be positive in tone. This is not the time to air your grievances. Your resignation letter will likely become a part of your permanent file, so choose your words carefully. If at all possible, hand-deliver (don’t email) your letter of resignation.

In the future, the person verifying your employment with the company might not be someone you worked with previously. They may review your file, and what you write in your letter of resignation might be important. A strong recommendation can be important — and it’s appropriate to reiterate your contributions in the resignation letter so that information is in your file. Just don’t go overboard; this is about you leaving the company, not angling for a raise or a promotion.

In your letter, be sure to thank your employer for the opportunities you had. You can also reiterate valued personal relationships in your resignation letter — acknowledging your work with your coworkers and supervisors.

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR LETTER OF RESIGNATION:

  • The date you are leaving (if at all possible, give at least two week’s notice).
  • Include a forwarding address for mail and correspondence. Also include an email address where you can be reached.

A sample resignation letter might sound like this:

Dear (Supervisor Name):

This letter is to inform you that I am resigning from my position as (job title) with (company name), effective (date). I am willing to stay on for two weeks — until (date) — in order to provide a seamless transition for my replacement.

I have appreciated the opportunity to learn from you and contribute to the company in this role. Being able to be a part of the team that launched the (name of project) that sparked the division to its highest revenues ever is something that I will always remember.

One of the most difficult things about moving on is the loss of your guidance. I have greatly benefited from your leadership and mentoring, and I would welcome the opportunity to keep in contact in the future, as I sincerely value your knowledge and experience.

We will need to work out my final work schedule as well as disposition of my accrued vacation/leave time and employee benefits; I will await your guidance on how to handle these issues.

Personal correspondence can be sent to me at my home address (list address), or via email at (personal e-mail address).

I wish you — and the company — all the best.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

Making a Successful Job Transition

Don’t neglect the details when making a job transition. Even when you initiate your departure, there will be paperwork to complete. This can include:

  • An exit interview. Many companies conduct a brief interview with departing employees to see if they can identify trends or areas of improvement to help them retain more employees.
  • Health insurance benefits. You may need to take advantage of COBRA coverage to extend your health insurance benefits until you start your new position. Make sure you have this information from your company’s HR representative.
  • 401(k) or pension rollover, or stock sellback. If you have participated in the company’s retirement program or stock purchase program, you may need to take action to secure these investments once you leave the company.

The Etiquette of Departure

Don’t tell your boss — or your coworkers — that you are even thinking of looking for a new position. If you can’t afford to be unemployed for any length of time, don’t give your employer a reason to let you go before you’ve had a chance to find a new position. Sometimes, even the idea that you’re seeking a new position is enough for you to jeopardize your current job. For example, your boss might not assign you to a new project because “you’re not going to be here long enough to see it through anyway.”

Don’t tell your coworkers you’re leaving before you inform your boss. Even if you have a friend or confidant in the office, don’t let him or her know you are interviewing for another position, or that you’ve landed a new role. You need to tell your boss first.

Don’t share — or dwell on — your reasons for seeking a new position. Don’t try to justify why you are leaving. If you are leaving to escape a toxic work environment, there’s nothing to be gained by pointing that out. It’s fine to say that you are leaving to explore new opportunities.

Make a good impression all the way to the end. Remember, “Often, the last thing people remember about you is your last days on the job, not your first.” What should you be doing in your last few days and weeks on the job? Whatever your boss wants you to. Have a conversation with your supervisor. What does he or she want you to work on? Will you be training your replacement? Are there any major projects to complete? Can you document processes and procedures in enough detail that someone else could complete the tasks?

Ask your supervisor for a reference — either a letter or a LinkedIn Recommendation. You can also ask what information will be provided in the future when someone contacts the company for information to verify your employment, or for a reference. Some companies have a policy that they only provide dates of employment, and that all reference checks must go through the Human Resources department — so your supervisor may not be able to provide a reference.

Don’t neglect your colleagues. Although the formal resignation letter is for your immediate supervisor, consider writing separate notes to co-workers to let them know you appreciated working with them. Take steps to keep your connections with your current (soon-to-be former) colleagues. Collect personal contact information for valued contacts and assure them their professional calls and inquiries will be welcome in the future. Connect with them on LinkedIn — you can further solidify your connection with them by providing a Recommendation for them on their LinkedIn profile.

What If They Want You to Stay?

Be prepared for a counteroffer from your current employer. When your employer finds out you are leaving, you may be tempted with an offer to stay. However, most research — and anecdotal evidence — on this subject finds that employees who accept a counteroffer often end up leaving the company anyway, often within a year.

In many cases, your current employer may make a counteroffer out of panic. If you are instrumental to a current project, for example, your supervisor may be desperate to keep you until the project is complete. Once that happens, however, you may find yourself expendable. Also, employees who accept another job offer — even if they ultimately end up staying in their current position — may be perceived as “disloyal.”

You were seeking a new position for a reason. If your motivation was purely financial, you may receive a counteroffer that meets that need, but it may create dissatisfaction with your co-workers if they learn you stayed with the company and received a raise. If you were seeking a new job for other reasons, staying at the company may not resolve those issues.

If you do accept a counteroffer and decide to stay with your current company, make sure you have an open and honest dialogue with your supervisor about any changes that need to be made. Again, look to your reasons for seeking a new position in the first place. Can these be addressed? For example, taking on different assignments, or making changes to the structure of the position (i.e., different hours) can be critical changes. Simply staying in exchange for more money won’t make you any more successful in the same position — which will likely lead to your eventual departure from the company anyway.

The Door Is Always Open

If you handle your departure from the company with grace and tact, you may find the door is open for you to return to the company in the future. New positions don’t always work out, and mergers and acquisitions (especially in smaller industries) are a possibility. You may find yourself working for the same supervisor — or company — in the future.

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

Informational Interview: Questions and Successful Strategies

Informational Interview: Questions and Successful Strategies

The informational interview… this may be uncharted territory for you. What is it? An informational interview is a meeting where a job seeker searches out advice on their career or the entire industry of a potential workplace; while a currently employed professional learns about the job seeker and determines their potential or fit in that workplace, and by so doing increases their candidate pool for future hires. It can be tricky to get your foot in the door and schedule an Informal Interview with a perspective employer; however it can prove to be time well spent.

Strategies for Requesting the Interview

Requesting the interview may not be as difficult as you originally thought. People generally love to talk about themselves and you need to take advantage of that. Warm them up. Be friendly and inquisitive about what skills they have and what is required to get a foot in the door. Get a conversation going with questions like, how did they get their start in this field and what is an average day like. Then move onto the reason you would like to meet with them. Using phrases such as, “would you be able to help me with this?” may prove to be powerful as most people generally do like to help one another. It is harder to tell someone that you can’t help them, right?

Informational interviews can help speed your knowledge of new industries and positions, helping you with your job search.

Informational interviews can help speed your knowledge of new industries and positions, helping you with your job search.

You should also be prepared to talk about yourself, your experience and goals right from the get go. You never know when they are going to turn the tables and start asking you questions to ensure that it is worth their time to meet with you. Go into this conversation well prepared. This is a great chance to make a positive first impression.

Worthwhile Questions for the Informational Interview

Upon arriving at your Informational Interview, don’t forget to thank the Interviewee again for their willingness to take the time to meet with you. They are doing you a favor; it’s as simple as that. Be gracious and thankful. It wouldn’t hurt to also remind them that you are hoping to gather all the information you can about this industry and career field, remember to be informal.

As the interview begins, don’t forget that time will fly, you won’t have the time to ask all the questions that you have. Try to keep the conversation focused, however, use every minute wisely. As you prepared for this interview you should have organized your questions by priority and importance. Make sure to get at least the most helpful and pressing questions answered first.

Example Informational Interview Questions:

  • How did you become interested in this line of work?
  • How did you get started?
  • What other employment or past experience proved helpful to get into your current position?
  • What are the skills you find to be the most important in this field?
  • What made you choose this particular company?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What types of responsibilities and duties do you have?
  • What kind of problems do you deal with on a day to day basis?
  • What are the best parts?
  • What are the worst?
  • Approximately what is the range of salary for a similar position?
  • Is the work steady and consistent or does it vary from time to time?
  • What is the most satisfying part of your job? Do you find it fulfilling and challenging?
  • What types of hours or time constraints are involved?
  • What demands are placed on your time outside of the average work week?
  • Is there any flexibility with scheduling, dress, vacation times, etc.?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement and growth? What are your long term goals?
  • What types of opportunities for professional development does the company provide?
  • Does the future of the company look bright?
  • What is the atmosphere like in the company? Is it friendly or cut-throat, etc?
  • What is the average length of time that people stay with this company?
  • Are there incentives for staying long-term?
  • With the information you have about me, what other fields or positions would do you recommend I research further before making a final decision?
  • Do you have any information about possible future job openings?
  • What types of benefits are offered by your company? Is that above or below normal for this industry as far as you are aware?
  • If you could do it all over again, is this still the path that you would take? What would you change?
  • What advice would you give someone looking into this profession or field?

Wrapping Up Your Informational Interview

As you can see, the questions could go on and on. You need to keep them focused on what is important to you. What stage of life are you in? Are you a student just trying to get that first important position right out of college or are you attempting to make a career change years after entering the work force. You know what matters the most to you personally and those are the areas that you need to focus on. Don’t make the mistake of just assuming that the conversation will flow once you are there and then hoping to remember all that was discussed. Be PREPARED with your questions, take notes, and tune in. This type of opportunity doesn’t come around often, make it count. And, of course, don’t forget to follow your informational interview with a kindly worded, heartfelt thank you note!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
clock showing 10 o'clock

10 Things to Do on LinkedIn Right Now, All in Less than 1 Hour

Do these 10 things on LinkedIn Right Now, All in Less than 1 Hour

You’re thinking, “I definitely have an hour to spend, but I don’t know how to use LinkedIn properly.” The interface is complicated, and it’s always changing, which makes keeping up even harder. I will tell you, however, that most executive job seekers don’t know how to use LinkedIn well. Learning the best way to work with LinkedIn’s various tools and capabilities definitely will move your executive job search forward.

Learning how to use LinkedIn well can advance your job search to success.To complicate things, if you don’t keep up with all of the different functions that LinkedIn offers, you might find yourself behind your competition to connect with the right people to find the right executive role.

If you’re stressed about how use LinkedIn for your job search presence, follow these 10 simple daily strategies to target your talents and expertise to your executive ideal job search goal.

  1. Connect with someone you don’t know personally on LinkedIn, and customize your connection request so they understand exactly why you’ve reached out to them.
  2. Write a LinkedIn recommendation for someone else.
  3. Call up a LinkedIn connection with whom you have not spoken in at least 6 months.
  4. Look on LinkedIn’s job board for interesting positions open right now.
  5. Review several colleagues’ profiles to see what they have been up to.
  6. Join a LinkedIn group and post one question—or comment on someone else’s question.
  7. Take those business cards you collected from your last networking event and connect with each of them on LinkedIn.
  8. Write a long-form blog post and publish it on LinkedIn.
  9. Look at a LinkedIn company page to see when their next industry event or webinar will be held, then make time to participate.
  10. Read an article in a publication related to your industry or job function. Then update your LinkedIn status with a link to it and a question or insight about it to your connections.

Can you do all of these in less than 60 minutes? Time yourself—you’ll be surprised at how fast you can complete these 10 tips. Know how to use LinkedIn well with these 10 tips, and you’ll master your executive job search.

Updated January 2017

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

5 Software Tools to Jump Start Your Job Search

5 Software Tools for Job Search

“Jumping in” can be the hardest part of your Job Search. Motivation can be difficult to harness when you don’t know where to begin. This article will spotlight some great software products that you can use either free of charge or close to it. Having the proper tools available can make all the difference in your job search from the beginning to the successful ending.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), if this is something new to you, refers to systems that companies use to manage and/or analyze customer data with the goal of improving relationships, studying customer retention and initiating sales growth.

CRM systems are built to organize information about customers including websites, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. They can also provide detailed information on customers’ personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and their concerns.

There are several open source options, such as SugarCRM. Open source CRM systems allow you to add data links to social media. This aids companies looking to improve social CRM practices.

Using any of the above mentioned CRM methods varies depending on a company’s business needs, goals and resources. This software can prove to be very beneficial in organizing your networking, sales and contacts. An organized job search is bound to be a successful one.

  1. Office Software

We are all familiar with Microsoft Office, and have probably used it in the past or maybe are even using it currently. It is a great program with applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email and so on. However, it can be an expensive program. We all need to be aware that these types of office applications are also available in free and open source formats.

Open source office software has come a long way in the past several years making it a great choice for your work productivity software. You won’t even lose most features or support. These free software options have countless tools and also provide all the features you need and expect.

Most of these alternatives to Microsoft Office have the basic applications to help you be productive in the office, such as: word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Several of the alternatives provide even more options, including drawing, database tools and storage.

Below are some great options you may want to consider: Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice, NeoOffice, Google Docs, and KOffice.

  1. WordPress

WordPress is free web software that you can use to create an awesome website, blog, or even an app. The software has been created by hundreds of volunteers. When you are familiar with the countless ways the software works and want to move onto more than the basics, there are innumerable plugins, customizations and themes available to transform your site into anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people use WordPress; numbers don’t lie!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Slideshare

If you haven’t heard of SlideShare, you are one of the few! SlideShare is one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world. SlideShare provides you with the ability to learn not only faster, but smarter as well.

Rather than scrolling through endless pages of text, you can look through a SlideShare deck and obtain the same information in half the time. You have the ability to learn about any topic you can imagine. You can also share information and insight through many different types of media. SlideShare has endless possibilities that will be sure to send you into any job search well prepared.

  1. LinkedIn

I am confident that you are familiar with LinkedIn, especially if you are in the process of job searching, but just to be sure you are up to speed, LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service. LinkedIn offers many different services including: Groups, Job listings, Online recruiting, Skills, a Publishing Platform, Influencers, Advertising and for-pay Research.

LinkedIn is also free of charge. This service can be instrumental in job networking as it works like a gigantic web with many connections that you wouldn’t likely find otherwise. Job recruiters, and personnel HR often use LinkedIn as a source for finding potential candidates, more so than ever before. LinkedIn also allows users to research companies that they may be interested in working for. As a potential employee you are able to apply for various jobs right through your LinkedIn profile, using it as a resume. In addition, all of your job applications will be saved for you to use in the future.

Closing Remarks about Software Tools for Job Search

Each of these services could prove to be a valuable asset in preparing for and carrying out your job search. The best part is with most of the options being free of charge they will not add any overhead in a time that may already be proving to be stressful. There are so many tools at our fingertips. We need to be sure to get out there, do our research and put all the best options to good use.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor