Are Your References Working For You?

Having stellar references and knowing how to use them, will give you an edge in a highly competitive job market where employers have access to a large pool of qualified candidates.  Yet, many job seekers are not using their references to their best advantage.

 Here are some tips I would like to share with you: I call my tips: The three C’s:

Compile, Communicate, and be Courteous.

 (1) Compile a list of references, who, you believe, would speak highly of you. Consider:

  • Supervisors in former jobs
  • Subordinates in former jobs
  • Colleagues in former jobs
  • Vendors and clients you interfaced with 
  • Members of volunteer or professional associations
  • Professors

Let the references know the types of positions you are applying for and ask for their permission to serve as your reference and share their contact information. Inquire for the best and quickest way to reach them. Your list will include:

  •  Name
  • Title
  • Organization
  • Address
  • Telephone number (If possible, get 2 phone numbers)
  • Email address
  • Fax Number

When should you request references? (1) While still employed. For example, if a client praises you for your services, ask them if they would be willing to serve as a reference. (2) Professors – approach them once you have taken their classes, when you are still fresh in their minds. (3) Before you leave your current position approach your supervisor, colleagues and whomever else you choose and ask for a letter of reference as well. The sooner, the better. 

Communicate – When asked to provide a list of references on a job application, select the references that would be most relevant to the position you are seeking. Following a job interview, interested interviewers would most likely contact your references. It is therefore, essential that you communicate and alert them: Email your resume and job description and discuss the position, preferably by phone. Make sure that the references have a clear understanding of what makes you a unique and a great fit for the position, and the circumstances of your separation from your former jobs. Bear in mind that your ability to perform the job is only part of the equation. Address your oral and written communication skills, teamwork, leadership, willingness to learn, and solid work ethics. These are all critical elements in the selection process.   

Courtesy – This tip is the shortest one but truly essential: Always, always, thank your references, keep them posted on the outcomes, and offer to help them too.

I will be remiss if I do not include another form of references that recruiters and employers have access to, namely, your online Recommendations,  on LinkedIn. When approaching your contacts (the more, the merrier) let them know what qualifications would be helpful to highlight, so as to build a well-rounded collection of recommendations.

Good Luck!

You are in the driver’s seat – a Roadmap for Job Seekers (Part II)

More tried-and true tips and advice to inform and inspire you to get your career in gear.

Part I focused on getting started and planning your job search:

Determine your destination: Identify your target industry/jobs.
Prepare your Triptik: Create a plan of action.
Ask for directions: Enlist the help of people you trust and/or career experts to offer feedback and support in planning your job hunt.

Let’s continue the ride ….

Be the best driver you can be

Work hard at your job search and treat the whole process as you would any full time job, allowing 35-40 hours for this endeavor:

  • Prepare your daily and weekly “to do list” and mark them on your calendar.
  • Be specific and quantify: # of phone calls a day, # of networking meetings per week etc.
  • Schedule several breaks during your “work day”.
  • Manage your time wisely.
  • Develop a system for tracking your activities and always follow up.
  • In the absence of a work team, conduct your own “office meeting” to assess your progress, reflect, identify challenges, and perform tune up as needed.
  • Create your “board of directors” – a network of people you trust. (See below regarding “support”).
  • Pay yourself a bonus; Reward yourself for your hard work.

Take side streets

Maneuver your job search strategically and creatively to avoid those dreaded traffic jams. After all, All roads lead to Rome”. Concentrate on the hidden job market but employ a variety of traditional methods as well. It is a “numbers game”. (A word of caution: Do not confuse activity with productivity).

Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Like many job seekers facing rocky roads, you may experience feelings which run the gamut of rejection or failure, shame, loss of self esteem, confusion, powerlessness, hopelessness, anger, depression and tremendous stress. While these are understandable, it is essential that you avoid coming to a full stop. Here are strategies that work well for my clients:

  • Recognize that you are not in Kansas any more. Your job hunt challenges are a product of a tough economy and a highly competitive job market. Moreover, the world of work, career development and management, hiring practices and the ground rules for job search have undergone a tremendous overhaul. You have no control over these changes (it is said that the only one who likes change is a wet baby…), but it is up to you to embrace the new reality, accept the paradigm shift, and focus on what is under your control.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and learn a new set of skills to conduct an effective job search. Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Practice persistence. Remember what happens to the squeaky wheel?
  • Seek support; Join at least one job club, networking and/or support group (there are plenty of them around, including bookstores) where you will meet many talented and seasoned job seekers who may be doing all the right things, but have still not gotten a job. In addition to enjoying the benefits of tips, advice and leads, it will normalize your situation and will make you realize, that this is just temporary. Another source of support are professionals: career counselors and coaches, and, in some cases, therapists.
  • Peruse letters of reference, work samples, resumes and any other documents that can attest to your talents and accomplishments. My clients find these very empowering. I actually have them create a professional portfolio for this reason (and many others).
  • Last, but not least: check negative attitude and feelings at the door, since you are running the risk of forfeiting your chances for being hired. You may be dressed to the ninth for a coveted job interview, but you are never fully dressed until you wear a smile on your face. The same goes for phone interviews and, actually, for all networking activities, in person and via social media.

Armed with the right attitude and a solid roadmap, sooner or later you will arrive at your destination. You will get the job you want and put your career back in gear. I’ve been there, done that, and so can you.

I wish you the very best!!!

You Are in the Driver’s Seat – a Roadmap for Job Seekers

(This is Part 1 in a series of postings with tried-and true tips and success stories to inform and inspire you to get your career in gear)

Determine your destination

It is often said that “If you do not know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else”. Indeed, many job seekers skip this crucial stage and thereby prolong their journey. Do they really mean it when they say “I will do anything?” Unless you are one of those who would just as well lead a Safari, deliver key-notes to 2,000 people or wash the windows of the Sears Tower, you need to gain clarity and focus, your compass: What job functions, companies, industries, locations, and work environment do you desire?

Unfortunately, when your career has been derailed, there is often a lot of stress and confusion interfering with identifying your target. Give yourself permission and time to evaluate your transferable skills, professional expertise, accomplishments, needs, interests, passions, and your bottom line. Then, create a list of your top “must haves” and “would be nice to have” and generate options based on your best fit. The pay-offs are plenty:

  • You will immediately realize that this bump in the road will provide you with opportunities you have not considered before. For example, ongoing job losses in the publishing industry, have driven editors, and reporters to shift gears and start a career in copywriting, providing content for websites, blogging, or teaching.
  • Having a target will relieve much of your anxiety and stress
  • It is much easier for your contacts to assist you, knowing what you are seeking, so help them help you.
  • Last, but not least, the skills, accomplishments and the your other self-assessment components will serve as indispensible resources in developing your personal brand, and crafting effective and targeted self-marketing tools, both written and verbal.

Prepare your Triptik

“How do I start and what do I need to do?” is on the minds of most clients I have worked with. It is amazing to witness their increased sense of empowerment and self confidence once they create a road map, their self-marketing action plan. This will include, but is not limited to:

  • Creating a target list of companies and contacts within the company
  • Strategies for tapping into the hidden job market, such as networking in person and via Social Media
  • Internet search for opportunities on company websites, industry specific and general job sites
  • Traditional job search methods like classified ads , recruiters and staffing agencies
  • Preparation of resumes, cover letters, letters of interest, business cards, phone script and Elevator Pitch
  • Honing interviewing and networking skills
  • Creating a system for organizing and managing your “campaign” and a timely follow-up.
  • Last, but not least, scheduling time for recreation, sports, socializing and/or hobbies to reduce stress, preserve your health, and provide relaxation and fun during this challenging time.

Ask for directions

Do not hesitate to enlist the help of people you trust and who respect and know you well and are likely to offer objective feedback and insights on your job hunt. You may also choose to work with a career counselor/coach who will assist you along your journey, provide expertise, encouragement and support, and expedite the process.

Join me for the ride next week with more tips, information and secrets of successful job seekers.

Welcome to my new website!

Welcome to Best Fit Careers!

I am thrilled to launch my website and share it with you!

I invite you to learn more about me and my expertise, get familiar with my services, and enjoy the resources I compiled and which will be updated regularly.

The foundation of Best Fit Careers can be best expressed with one of my favorite quotes:

“When love and skill come together, expect a masterpiece.”
(John Ruskin).

My blog postings will, indeed, focus on strategies to help you create your own “masterpiece” in your work/life. I will share tales of individuals who reached their career goals, along with useful tips and quality advice to help you on your career journey.  I would love to get your comments and own stories and welcome your questions. You can subscribe to my blog via rss (ie: Google Reader, My Yahoo, Bloglines, Netvibes, etc) by clicking on the “subscribe via rss” link at the top-right hand side of the page.

Last, but not least, I would like to acknowledge my web developer, Doron, ( for his creativity, sound judgment and superb professionalism. Our work together has resulted in a website that is a true reflection of me. A Best Fit, indeed!