The Career Coach is In
POSTED AT 6:47 AM ET, 12/14/2010

Networking by any other name

My colleague, Wendy Terwelp, The Networking Coach, shared some job search tips. MB

Question:

Everyone tells me that networking is the best way to land a new job. I have all these holiday parties coming up, so I thought I could use them as a networking opportunity. The bad news is that I have a terrible time remembering names. What can I do?

Answer:

First, you're not alone, especially at holiday parties when there are so many people around.
What's in a name? It's the one word that's music to your listener's ears. If you're great with faces but have a tough time remembering names, here are three tips excerpted from my book, "Rock Your Network® for Job Seekers:"

1. Introduce yourself first.Use your first and last name. The person you're connecting with is probably having a tough time remembering your name as well, so introducing yourself will put him at ease.
2 Associate the names. Alliteration is especially helpful for large groups or if more than one person has the same first name. "Barbara in blue," "Mary the mortgage broker" or "Frank the financial planner" can help you remember who is who.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:22 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Negotiating a job offer--Pt. 2

My colleague, Alan De Back of Alan De Back Learning and Communications of Burke asked to share some job search tips. MB

Question:
Is it true that I can negotiate the job offer I receive from an employer? What is your advice on negotiating?

Answer:
Know your bottom line. Have you (and your spouse or partner) actually figured out what your bottom line is to maintain your lifestyle? Do you know the market value for your job in your metropolitan area? Are your skills in high demand or are there many others with the skills to do the job? All of these things are important considerations in knowing what your bottom line is. You need to have a concrete idea of what you will and won't accept.

Other parts of the compensation package are negotiable. The package is often about much more than salary. Do you need better work-life balance? Are telecommuting or a flexible work hours possible options? If you have reached a desired level of vacation accrual with your current employer, that benefit might be negotiable. If the salary level offered is not quite what you anticipated, think about what other parts of the package might be desirable to you.

BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:16 AM ET, 11/ 9/2010

Negotiating a job offer (Pt. I)

I am in Africa, so my colleague, Alan De Back of Alan De Back Learning and Communications of Burke, agreed to share some job search tips. MB

Question:
Is it true that I can negotiate the job offer I receive from an employer? What is your advice on negotiating?

Answer:
I have several pieces of advice related to the negotiation process.

1. Don't accept on the spot. Any ethical organization is going to understand that you need time to evaluate their offer. After all, this is a huge decision with a big impact on your life and your future. You may also have a spouse or significant other with whom you need to discuss the offer. If you are pressured to accept on the spot, be suspicious. The organization may be trying to "low-ball" you and they don't want to give you adequate time to think about the offer and do some research.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:37 AM ET, 11/ 3/2010

Transferable skills, great possibilites

They are former teachers, nurses and doctors. They are accountants, lawyers and business people. They are spouses, parents, siblings and children. They are former Peace Corps volunteers and military officers. Some are from the USA; others are from Pakistan, Swaziland and Nepal. They are from different backgrounds, united to provide USAID humanitarian relief to countries all over the continent of Africa and beyond.

The other day we looked at the various skills that they bring to USAID. And what a list it was! They have competencies in strategic planning, leadership, business acumen and team management. Many of them have strengths in communication, decision making and program management. I can't speak for all USAID employees, but the ones I have met also have a strong sense of honesty and integrity. Transferable skills? You better believe it!

Today's message from South Africa: know your skills, your accomplishments and your successes. Learn how they are applicable to international development. Talk to folks whom you know--or someone who knows someone--who has worked in this field. And if you have an interest in making a difference, seek out opportunities with USAID or other organizations that are similar.

From my perspective, you can't go wrong!

BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:25 AM ET, 10/27/2010

Setting priorities and values

As I mentioned earlier, I am meeting amazing individuals while working here in South Africa. They are committed to their profession and to their homeland. One of these is a woman named Vera. Let me share a little about her.

Vera is a doting mother (of three children, ages 8, 6 and 2), a good wife and loving daughter. She also has a Master's degree in international law, works as a full-time democratic and governance advisor, is a member of the local school board and is an admitted "shopaholic." Every day, she and her husband come home for lunch to be with their children. In between, she exercises.

By the way, she lives in Zimbabwe, which doesn't exactly promote her kind of lifestyle.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:52 AM ET, 10/26/2010

Following up after an interview

I am in Africa, so my colleague, Alan De Back of Alan De Back Learning and Communications of Burke, agreed to share some tips about following up after an interview. MB

Question:
I've been told several times that I should follow-up after I have an interview. Do you have any ideas about the best way to follow up?

Answer:
Many candidates don't realize that what they do after the interview can have almost as great an impact as what they do during the interview. Not following up appropriately can deliver a variety of messages to the recruiter: that you don't care, you don't possess good follow-up skills, or you don't understand the importance of social niceties in the business world.

Consider the case of Susan, a director in a fund raising firm. She interviewed a candidate who she considered perfect for a fund raising position. The candidate interviewed extremely well, was personable, and appeared to have all the skills and qualifications to do a great job. In the days following the interview, Susan waited for some kind of follow-up from the candidate. The job offer was ready and would be made as soon as the candidate followed-up.

No thank you letter or any other follow-up ever occurred. Susan didn't make the offer, reasoning that lack of follow-up after the interview could translate to lack of follow-up with clients.You should plan to follow-up on your interview with some sort of thank you. Some career professionals disagree as to whether the thank you should be in the form of an e-mail message, or a more traditional hard-copy letter.

The best advice is to consider the type of organization at which you interviewed and its culture. An interviewer at an innovative high-tech organization will probably respond best to an e-mail message. If you interviewed at a more traditional organization, a hard-copy letter will probably be a better bet. In either case, a thank you will show good follow up skills on your part, and could set you apart from the competition.

Hope this helps!

Alan De Back

BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:15 AM ET, 10/21/2010

Making a difference in Africa

Please indulge me in my blogs over the next two weeks. I am fortunate enough to be on assignment in South Africa and will be blogging when I am able. Alan DeBack, a career professional and colleague of mine will be filling in periodically, as well.

However, I want to share my experience with you while I am here, relative to this blog. I am working with people in the international development field from all over Africa. Let me tell you from a career stand point, if you have interest in making a difference, this is an area that desperately needs help. I am with people that are fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and poor--if any--sanitization and agricultural development from countries such as Uganda, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Madagascar, to name a few. Many of these professionals are with USAID and the State Department. They are hard working individuals that despite the conditions that they face are passionate and committed to help in humanitarian relief.

I am looking forward to telling you about what I encounter.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:36 AM ET, 10/14/2010

What? No business card?

Question:
You told me to network. I go to networking events and everyone is passing out business cards. I am unemployed and don't have one. What should I do?

Answer:
First of all, you are not unemployed. You are "between successes" and your full time job right now is looking for your next opportunity. Having said that, there is no reason for you NOT to have a business card. Despite the fact that you might not have a company name, you still have contact information. I will encourage you to go have some cards made (Office Max, Staples etc.) that have your name, address, e-mail, phone number etc. Some of my clients even include their LINKEDIN address and/or a Web site address if you have one. Make it look professional and on a nice heavy cardstock. You don't need any fancy logos or fonts. Just make it a simple "calling card." If you want to make them from your own printer, just be sure to use a nice card stock and not a flimsy one. Vistaprint, a mail-order online printing company, provides them at a reduced price as well. I don't recommend the free ones.

And yes, many people today exchange this information electronically through their BlackBerry's, iPhones, etc. However, having an actual printed business card can say a lot about your brand, your image and your professionalism. Go out today and get yours so when you go to your next networking event, you are prepared.

BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:13 AM ET, 10/13/2010

Cover letters that work

Question:
Can you give me some quick tips on how to write an effective cover letter?

Answer:
I want to caution you though that each cover letter needs to be tailored to the specific job that you are applying for. You can't just have one template anymore and use that for every position. If you can, take the time to find out what the unique problems, challenges etc. of the organization might be. Show them how you have the qualifications to help them solve their problems. And YES, even though you might have some of this your resume, be sure to key in on some of the main issues in the cover letter as well.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:32 AM ET, 10/12/2010

Your 30-second commercial

Question:
People tell me I should have a strong elevator speech or a commercial. Why and what should it include?

Answer:
Knowing how to articulate your value and your expertise in a short and concise way is immensely valuable to your networking and job search success...but to be effective, it has to be genuine and it has to have meaning. It's not just a summary of you or your career.

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BY Marshall Brown

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POSTED AT 6:23 AM ET, 10/ 8/2010

Is it time to leave your job? Pt. 2

Question:

I have been at my job for 5 years and not sure it's right for me anymore. How do I make the decision to stay or go?

Answer:

See yesterday's post for other signs that it might be time to consider moving on.

5. If you think hard but can't find one thing about your job that you actually enjoy doing, it's time to change things up.

6. If the amount of stress and unhappiness at work is so significant that it's affecting your health or relationships, it's time to start looking elsewhere.

7. If there's no incentive for you to get out of bed and perform your job everyday, no benefit that resonates in a way that's meaningful and motivational, it's time to find another job.

8. If the atmosphere is toxic--the level of in fighting, gossiping, back stabbing, and negativity is so multi-layered that you don't know where it begins or how you would even begin to fix it--time to search for better environments.

Whatever you decide, I wish you much success!

BY Marshall Brown

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