6 Factors of Career Success

Finance – Investment Analyst, Boston, MA

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What skills do employers value and seek in potential employees? That was the question posted to hiring managers, and the feedback might surprise you! Below are the most common skills mentioned, whether the employee happens to be a manager, network engineer, or a cook.


1. BASIC SKILLS

Employers are seeking employees who can read well, can write coherently, and who can calculate mathematics in a business environment (fractions, percentages, etc.) Add to that the ability to use computer tools to round out the basic skill sets needed for employment success.

2. PERSONAL SKILLS

Can a potential employee speak well? Can he/she answer questions of customers in a positive, informative manner? While not everyone has an outgoing sales personality, successful employees can communicate in a non-confrontational, positive manner with their coworkers, subordinates, managers, and customers. Being able to work well with others is a vital skill for success in all jobs.

3. JOB ATTAINMENT

Job search is a process that requires a great deal of dedication and attention to be conducted successfully. If you put in little effort, you will receive little results. Employers are seeking employees who know how to present themselves in a positive manner and who display enthusiasm and knowledge about the companies they approach. Not only do candidates get evaluated on their skills and experience, but also on how they are approaching the job search. Enthusiastic candidates that follow up and show true interest will win success above equally qualified candidates.

4. JOB SURVIVAL

Now there’s a hot topic in this period of layoffs! True, who gets the ax and who doesn’t is often a matter of numbers, but it is also often a matter of performance. Employees who have consistently demonstrated their worth and made themselves a valuable asset have lower incidences of being downsized than employees who put forth average effort. Surviving in a company during layoffs is a skill that makes a candidate stand out among peers.

5. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Successful individuals are constantly attending seminars, taking classes, attaining training, and otherwise learning new skills that will keep them marketable in their careers. Successful people are lifelong learners. Employers are looking for people who understand this.

6. CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Career Development differs from Professional Development. Professional Development is learning while Career Development is a planning and goal setting process. Successful individuals design a career plan with written goals for short term and long term. They lay out the steps needed to move their careers from Point A to Point B within Time Frame C and plan how they are going to achieve those steps. Employers seek individuals who (believe it or not) wish to commit to the company for a long period of time. Good career progression is a high selling point of candidates to prospective employers.

4 Ways to Give Thanks While Job Searching

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1. First Contact

Whether a hiring manager gets back to you over phone or by email to set up an interview, make sure to take a moment to thank them for their time and consideration.  You certainly aren’t owed an interview just because you threw your resume into the ring, so don’t put on an air of entitlement.  It’s important to remain humble – that is not to say meek – throughout the process, and showing your appreciation is crucial to paying respect for the interviewer, as well as the company on the whole.

2. During the Interview

Make your first impression a great one – the moment you walk into the interview and shake hands with a hiring manager, thank them once again for their time and consideration.  Make sure to exit with a bang too; when you get up to leave, express your gratitude.  If more than one person is interviewing you, shake hands with each person and say thanks to all individually, and address them each by name if you can.

3. After the Interview

Many people often forget this step, but it’s essential to send a thank you note to a hiring manager after an interview.  It shows that you are thinking about a job after you’ve gotten through the initial meeting, and also gives you a chance to remind the hiring manager who you are, why you want the job, and what you bring to the table.  It’s up to you to discern whether it’s more appropriate to say thanks via email or regular mail; just make sure you remember this important gesture that all hiring managers appreciate.

4. Upon Rejection

Even though your inclination may be to cut your losses and move on as quickly as you can when you are rejected from a job, take a few minutes to say thanks one final time.  Saying thank you after you are given a “no” conveys professionalism, and cues hiring managers into what you might be like to work with if a future opportunity rolls around.  Never forget that, while you may not be given the current position you are applying to, other jobs may open up that are better suited to you.  Keep yourself at the top of the hiring manager’s list by ending on a positive note.

Always remember the importance of saying thank you, and, equally as important, remind yourself of the things you are already grateful for in your life.  Even if you don’t have a job this holiday season, try to remember that things do change, and it’s the joy and support you currently have that will get you through these challenging times.

Happy Thanksgiving,

The Doostang Team

5 Essentials for a Great Cover Letter

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cover-letter
Sending good cover letter is how employers know you really want the job.   A great cover letter will get you an interview.  A bad cover letter says you are a spammer sending your resume to every job under the sun.  Learn the 5 things you need to know to do it right!

1. Tell them what job you want

Establish the focus and purpose of the communication right from the start. The reader will know you are interested in employment, but be specific about the type of job you are targeting. If replying to a specific advertisement, mention that at the beginning. Push your brand right from the beginning. A cover letter is not a social correspondence but a business communication with the dual purposes of introduction and persuasion.

2. Tell why you’re special

What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that is an added bonus? The cover letter is where you establish your image as the expert in your field. Many people think they are average and as a result, they write about themselves in an average way. Employers do not hire average candidates in a tight market. They hire above average candidates. Not only must you show you are a good candidate, but you have to believe you are a great candidate! When you believe it, others will to. That enthusiasm and confidence must come through in the cover letter.

3. Tell them how you add value

Have you ever purchased one brand of product over another simply because you received more for your money with the selected product? Companies try very hard to “bundle” services or market added value benefits in order to persuade you to purchase their products. For example, you may purchase one car over a comparable vehicle because it has a longer warranty. This marketing concept works in job search, too. What do you to offer that is extra? Perhaps you are multilingual or you have depth of insight into the industry that other candidates do not possess. Maybe you win sales based on your unique approach or that you are very good at saving endangered accounts. All of these things are “added value” and can play a powerful role when highlighted in a cover letter.

4. Tell them about your past success

It is important for the cover letter to bring attention to some of your achievements to spur the reader to read the resume. Allude to specific accomplishments you have brought into your resume but only give the reader a taste or a tease. If you can select these statements to match up with the needs of the employer, all the better! For example, if a job ad states “Experience selling into Fortune 100 IT departments” and you have that experience, make sure you mention it in the cover letter!

5. Tell them you will follow-up

So many people make the mistake of ending the cover letter on an “I’ll wait to hear from you” note. Take charge of the situation and state when you will follow up on your communication. State the day you will be in contact and by what method (phone, email, etc.). By being proactive, you give the impression of being positive, confident, and professional. Of course, you have to do what you promise and follow up! Don’t let that drop through the cracks or you waste the entire effort!

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7 Tips to Resume Success

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1. Select the best format

While most resumes are written in a history chronological format, often a better technique is to evenly balance between skill set description, achievements, and employment.

2. Don’t Write Too Much

Employers need to see details about your work history and experience, but they don’t need to know everything. Keep information germane to the goal of attaining an interview. Eliminate information that is not related and will not have direct impact on winning the interview.

3. Do not use personal pronouns.

“I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”, “our” should not be on a resume. Resumes are written in first person (implied). Example: For your prior job description, instead of writing: “I hired, trained and supervised a team of assistant managers and sales associates” you would instead state that you “Hired, trained and supervised a team of assistant managers and sales associates.” Fragment sentences are perfectly acceptable on a resume and actually preferred.

4. Use numerical symbols for numbers

While we are taught in school to spell out numbers less than ten, in resume writing, numerical symbols serve as “eye stops” and are a much better method. Instead of writing “Developed a dynamic team of eight consultants.” it would be much more advantageous to state “Developed a dynamic team of 8 consultants.”

5. Highlight Success

What makes you stand out from the crowd? How did you come up with a way to do things better, more efficiently, or for less cost? What won honors for you? Information such as this is vital, will grab attention, and put your resume at the top of the list.

6. Keep it positive

Reason for leaving a job and setbacks do not have a place on a resume. Employers are seeking people who can contribute and have successfully performed in the past. Concentrate on communicating these issues and avoid any detracting information.

7. Be phone savvy

Many first time job interviews are conducted via telephone rather than in person. Make sure you are prepared for that telephone call when it arrives … and make sure you have a resume that will make the phone ring!

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2 Professional Resume Formats – Are You Using the Right One?

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What Resume Format is Right for You?

The two types of resume formats are very different. Chronological format details the job history in reverse time order, starting with the most recent position and working backwards. This format is the one that most recruiters and hiring managers prefer.

1. Chronological Format

Employers need to see details about your work history and experience, but they don’t need to know everything. Keep information germane to the goal of attaining an interview. Eliminate information that is not related and will not have direct impact on winning the interview.

Benefits to using a chronological resume include:

  • Shows your results. The reader can specifically see when and where a candidate achieved results. The guess work is eliminated.
  • Shows your range. A chronological format highlights flexibility. Many job seekers have held varying positions over their careers, often in different functions and roles. A good strategy is to showcase that diversity.
  • Shows your record of success. The progression of a candidate’s career, records of promotion, and increases in responsibility are shown clearly. These attest to a candidate’s performance record and drive to succeed.

Some job seekers worry about employment. Small gaps in employment (a year or less) are common these days. Lay-offs, mergers, acquisitions impact nearly everyone’s lives. Handled strategically, they can be minimized in a chronological resume.

2. Functional Format

Also known as a “skills resume” it has the content arranged according to performance type and function. A human resource professional for example, might divide his/her skills into categories such as Employee Training, Benefits Management, and Workforce Development. Under each category, the relevant information would be listed or described.

A brief work history listing comes at the end of the document listing job title, employer, and dates. I’ve seen some functional resumes with no employment dates at all. That is a big mistake.

A functional format is generally chosen when attempting to make a career change or to minimize a career blemish. Often, the functional format is used when a large span of time is missing from the work history.

Problems associated with the functional resume:

  • Where’s the information? Recruiters and hiring managers dislike hunting for information. They want to see past performance, and understand your background.
  • What’s the context? The functional format takes away all frames of reference. A candidate might claim attaining a record breaking sales contract but the reader is unable to place that in context in terms of time and employer. Was that success in sales recent or ten years ago? It’s difficult to tell in a functional resume.
  • What’s the problem? Recruiters and hiring managers know that the functional format is often used to try to cover something up. The functional format serves as a red flag — “What is this candidate trying to hide?” The use of the format to overcome a detriment actually serves to draw attention to it.

Today’s job seeker is wise to stick with the chronological format as it provides the necessary information to urge the reader to contact the candidate for an interview.

The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Conference Calls Professional and Effective

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1. Plan the Call

The most effective way to run a great conference call is to be prepared.  At a minimum, you should have the names, phone numbers, email addresses and job titles of the people who will be on the call. This way if anything goes wrong, you can reestablish communications quickly.

2. Plan Your Location

Background noise is a conference call killer.  Don’t try having a conference call from a shared cubicle area.  If you don’t have a private office, try reserving a conference room.  If none are available, ask someone who does have an office if you can borrow it.  If all else fails, sneak into an empty office at your organization.

3. Send Email Alerts

Email alerts are great way of making sure that no one forgets the call, or is missing the call in information.  Send an email out the day before the call, to everyone involved, stating the time of the call, the participants, the subject matter, the length and most importantly, don’t forget to include the call in phone number and password.  Send this email again 1 hour before the call.

4. Start Early

Don’t wait till a minute before the call to dial in.  Log into the call 10-15 minutes early so you have time to fix any problems like bad passwords, wrong numbers, bad sound, or any other problems that might arise.

5. Bring the Right People

Think about what the call is for, and make sure the right people are invited.  If the subject matter is likely to cross into one of your cooworkers responsibilities, ask them to sit in on the call.  Its better to include people than not include them, since they can always leave or decline if they aren’t needed.

7. Start the Call Professionally

Mute the phone.  When waiting on participants to enter the conference call, leave your phone on mute, so the other callers don’t hear any confidential information that you may discuss while waiting for their arrival.  When everyone has arrived, introduce everyone, with their full name and title, and why they are on the call.  Thank everyone for coming, let them know the agenda and length of the call, and begin.

8. Leave Time for Questions

If you expect the call to last 30 minutes, schedule it for 60 minutes.  At best you’ve wisely left time for the call to run long, or to include a question and answer session.  At worst you let everyone out early, so its a win-win for everyone.

9. Send a Follow-up Email

Send an email to the people on the call, summarizing what was discussed, and about any action items.  This way you can be sure that everyone on the call understands what they are expected to do next.  If there is a followup call, this is when you should tell everyone when it is.

10. Buy a Headset

Headsets with a microphone and earpiece are easy to find, but they won’t connect to your workplace phone if you have the standard Cisco VOIP phones, like most companies do.  You need to order a special headset from a maker like Plantronics.  Make sure you get both pieces, the dialer and the headset itself.  It can be expensive, anywhere from $200 to $400, but if you are a salesperson who lives and dies on the phone, this may be a great investment for you.  Your contacts will hear you much clearer, and you will hear them much better too.

Conference calls are a great way to stay connected and to convey information efficiently.  Just try to make sure you stay on track so that they remain sessions that people look forward to in order to touch base, rather than time wasters that everyone dreads.

Until next time,

Team Doostang

How to Dress for an Interview – 5 Job Search Dress Code Must-Haves

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For many of us students and recent graduates who gladly roamed campus in yesterday’s sweats, fashion is a foreign world tread only when absolutely necessary.  So, in order to make things easier: here are a few staple items that every job seeker should have in the closet.  The great thing about staple items is that they never really go out of style.  Invest in quality pieces now, and you will be able to wear them for years to come.

1. Conservative suit

A nice, conservative suit is an absolute must-have.  If you have the money, get it tailored to fit. The fabric should be a neutral or solid color – black and navy are the most common, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a little fun and go with a nice taupe or pinstripe.  When considering different types of ties, appliqués, or lapels, remember that the simpler the better.  Once you’re hired, you will have all the time in the world to impress your coworkers with your amazing sense of style.  Stick to the basics during your interview to convey a professional, polished look.  Women can wear a pant or skirt suit and should always wear sheer, neutral hosiery underneath – keep an extra pair in your purse in case you run the hosiery in transit.  It never hurts to be prepared!

2. Neatly pressed blouse or shirt

If you’re a man, a white, long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt with button cuffs is always acceptable.  For women, blouses or shirts should be white or ivory and conservative.  The neckline should coordinate with the lines of your jacket lapel.  Stay away from shirts that are too tight or revealing – while it might land you a date, it won’t land you a job!

3. A simple, professional watch

A watch is a great piece of flair that you can wear without worrying about committing a fashion faux pas.  Be sure to disable any functions that would cause the watch to beep during an interview.  While watches are by no means necessary as a means of telling time (now that everyone and their grandmother has a cell phone), watches are still an important part of an interview wardrobe.  Foregoing a watch can effectively say “I am never on time, ever.”  This writer recommends eco-drive watches: they’re solar powered and can run for years without having to change the battery!

4. Dress shoes

You should invest in a nice pair of interview shoes in a dark solid color that coordinates with your suit.  For women, shoes should always be closed toed with a heel of 2.5” or less.  Avoid anything shiny or textured – try for leather or synthetic fabrics that will not draw attention.   For men, just stay away from loafers!  Classic, tie-up dress shoes are always in style.  Your belt should match your shoes.

5. A simple bag or briefcase

One thing about briefcases: if you don’t have a reason to carry one, don’t.  But you should have some kind of bag with you to hold your resume, your phone, extra hosiery and everything else necessary or superfluous that you will want to carry with you on interview day.  Stick with neutral colors – a dark leather is always best.  Stay away from anything ridiculously large or small, and from messenger bags that sling across your body.  Over or undersized bags can make your entire outfit look unprofessional, and a slung-over bag will wrinkle your nicely pressed suit.  For women, if you’re not looking to invest in a bag specifically for interviewing and professional purposes, try getting something that will work for both work and play – like a neutral color Longchamp bag.

Beyond these basic items, there are a wide range of things you can do to to spruce up your look for an interview and make you look and feel your very best.  Be sure that your hair is neatly cut and styled and your nails are clean and cut short.  Always err on the side of caution when it comes to accessories, but the great thing about many of these staple items is that they can also be paired with fun, colorful pieces during the work week to add some professional excitement to your wardrobe.  These are working items that you can continue to wear and enjoy for years.

If there’s one thing I learned from years of watching What Not to Wear, it’s that fashion does make a difference in the way we look, feel, and present ourselves.  Dress for Success, and your confidence will reflect that effort!

Farewell, fashionistas –

Your interview style gurus,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News – Dressing for the Office When the Weather Turns Colder

As the cold weather really sets in, it’s tempting to bring the cozy fireside feeling into our cubicles.  But while there are certainly wardrobe alterations you’ll need to make along with the change in temperature, it’s still important to continue dressing professionally for work.  Here are some guidelines to ensure that you don’t get too comfortable in the office:

Leave the Sweats at Home

Sweats are what you change into after work – they’re not the duds you stroll into the office wearing, no mater how cold it is outside.  Anyone who walks in sporting a pair of running pants is just clueless, but you should be equally hesitant about wearing a sweatshirt in a professional working environment, even if it is just at your desk.  Of course, some company cultures do allow for more casual dress, so use your best judgment if you work in a more informal environment.

Leave Your Boots at the Doorstep

No one expects you to brave two feet of snow in the parking lot in stilettos.  But they don’t expect that you’ll track a trail of water and mud into the office either.  If the weather is stormy outside, make sure to cover up those feet with heavy-duty boots, but also pack a pair of office-friendly shoes that you can change into when you arrive.

Leave Your Winter Jacket in the Coat Closet

Even if the arctic chill makes its way indoors, it’s still unacceptable to wear your winter jacket at your desk.  Instead, wear a wool sports coat or add layers to your outfit.  You can also speak to someone about adjusting the thermostat in the building.

Leave the Holiday Sweaters at the Bottom of Your Dresser Drawer

You may be stoked to show off your holiday cheer, but unfortunately, cheesy holiday sweaters aren’t really suitable for the office – save them for the holiday party.  Again, some more casual offices may allow for these embarrassing fashion statements, but in general they’re unprofessional.  Stick to more traditional prints to keep you warm at your desk.

The world may seem to go into hibernation during the cold winter months, inciting you to bundle up and get cozy, but office etiquette still remains.  It’s important that you continue to dress the part, even when your fuzzy slippers and warm pajamas are calling your name.

Stay warm this winter!

The Doostang Team

How to Leave a Job Gracefully

Leaving a job often has very negative connotations.  Indeed, the first things that come to mind are getting fired or laid off.  But many times you leave a job for your own reasons, and on good terms at that.  So how do you make sure to leave work on the best terms?  Read on for a list of tips on tactfully exiting a company.

Give Plenty of Notice

The standard notice for leaving a job is two weeks.  However, it’s considerate to give your employer a bit more time if you know that your future plans will take you elsewhere.  Giving them that extra heads up allows them the chance to regroup and figure out what steps they will need to take when you leave.  We all know that things move quickly in the corporate world, so give the people you work with a chance to put the right building blocks in place so that your transition out of the company will be easier on everyone.

Offer to Find and/or Train Your Replacement

It’s a great show of consideration to your boss if you can help him or her find someone to replace you, and then to train them if you have the time.  Your employer has many other things that they need to do, so helping out the new person will lighten their load.  Moreover, you may very well be the most qualified individual to determine who should replace you, as you know what it takes to do your job.  You will also be the person who will be most familiar with the job itself, so you’ll be less likely to miss a beat when imparting knowledge to the new employee.

Tie Up All Loose Ends

If you have any big projects that you are working on, do your best to see them through.  Make arrangements to have others take over if you are working on things that will continue on farther into the future.  Contact all of the people at other companies whom you worked with and let them know that you are moving on, and introduce them to your replacement if you have one.  Finally, create templates, reference guides, or other materials that will help your coworkers, who might be taking over some of your tasks once you leave.

Knowing how to gracefully leave your job is important because you never know when you are going to cross paths with these people again; you also don’t know when someone from your future may contact the people from your past.  Moreover, a tactful exit is the perfect way to say thanks for a great run at a company.

Team Doostang

Overcoming Perfectionism

Doostang News: September 12, 2011
Overcoming PerfectionismVice President of Investor Relations, New York, NY
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Strong attention to detail is something employers value in the people that work for them.  But when your tendency to check, and recheck, and recheck again gets in the way of your productivity, it’s time to pause and determine if perfectionism is getting in the way of your ability to do your job effectively.  If you find yourself spending too much time and energy trying to achieve the perfect result, consider these pointers.

Weigh the Costs

If you spend countless hours going over your work until it reaches perfection, you’re likely doing this at the expense of other activities or projects.  So make a list of all of the things – both personal and professional – that you aren’t able to focus on because you are caught up with one particular task.  When you start to see what you are missing out on, you’re more likely to want to change your behavior.  You may also find that the quality of one “perfect” project doesn’t outweigh the numerous assignments you failed to get to on time.

Set Limits

If you struggle with knowing when to cut yourself off, set limits for yourself ahead of time.  Allocate a certain number of hours to completing a task, or allow yourself to review a certain project a set number of times.  It’s also important to set deadlines for yourself and to work to meet them.

Embrace Criticism

Many perfectionists fail to see constructive criticism as something that is positive, but rather, as an attack.  As a result, they work to create a product that others will be unable to criticize because it is flawless.  The fact is, criticism can be healthy and help you to see weaknesses in your work that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.  Criticism can help you to perform better on future projects, and is a healthy exercise in helping you to see your work in another light.

Learn from Your Mistakes

On that note, it’s okay to make mistakes – everyone does – and it’s important to learn from them.  No one will fault you for being less than perfect, so you shouldn’t dwell on it, but take it for the character building experience that it is.

Give Yourself a Break

Force yourself to unplug from your work when you go home at the end of the day.  Your evenings should be reserved for relaxing and indulging in activities that you enjoy – not spending more time on projects that can wait for the morning.

The fact that there is always something you can improve upon should be heartening, as you can constantly work to better yourself.  That said, perfection is difficult, if not impossible to come by, so ease up on yourself and just focus on doing your best.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team