How To Follow Up After Sending A Job Application

You’ve spent hours carefully tailoring your resume and cover letter to each position, sent out hundreds of applications, and have become yet another player in the painfully frustrating waiting game. It’s a hair-pulling, cliff-hanging experience that makes you second-guess your every move.

It also makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and shout to the high heavens, “What else can I possibly do!?”

There’s no doubt that one of the most frustrating aspects of the job search is waiting to hear back from an employer. Every career expert will tell you applying to jobs is a tough process that takes time, to which most of us reply with a sigh and secretly think, “Not me. I’ll be the exception to the rule.”

Since your main objective is scoring an interview, here are three tips to increase your chances of winning a return phone call.

1.  Be an active player.
Like my dad always yelled at my soccer games, “Don’t expect the ball to come to you. Move your feet and get it yourself!” Wise man, my dad, and he is right: You have to make your own opportunities. Before and after applying to a job, get on LinkedIn and track down people at the company. If they have a blog or a professional twitter account, get in touch with them and establish rapport. This could lead to introductions, job leads, informational interviews, or the big interview itself.

2.  Show good sportsmanship.
I know I told you to be an active player, but ramming phone calls down HR’s throat is going to get you a red card and kicked out of the candidate pool fast. Many career experts are split on the subject of the follow-up call, but if you feel it’s something you must do or else you’ll lose sleep at night, then do it—but wait at least a week after applying to the job. Call once, and when you do call, make sure to ask about your application status and the hiring timeline.

3.  Don’t get lazy.
You’re on team Y-O-U and only you can help or hurt your chances of winning. Many job candidates chose not to follow up and simply sit and wait to hear back from potential employers. This is a risky move that can give off the impression that you’re lazy and don’t want the job, when we know that’s not really the case. (Of course, this is debatable as well. Some career experts swear that any kind of follow-up isn’t necessary or even wanted due to the potential of being flooded with follow-ups all day.) If the job application explicitly says, “No phone calls or follow-ups,” then DON’T DO IT.

However, there is a middle ground that doesn’t involve looking needy and desperate and can still show employers your enthusiasm for the position.

Alison Green, of askamanager.org, suggests sending a quality follow-up email that sounds something like this: “I submitted my application for your __ position last week, and I just wanted to make sure my materials arrived. I also want to reiterate my interest in the position; I think it would be a great match, and I’d love to talk with you about the position when you’re ready to schedule interviews.”

BAM! Short, simple, and to the point. And for introverts, this avoids making any awkward phone calls.

The follow-up is a highly debatable job search topic. What advice have you gotten?  And if you’ve had a success story please share it.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

The Dos and Don’ts of Office Dating

Interoffice dating is bound to happen. Whether you become one half of these secretive affairs or you observe two coworkers pairing up, you’ll likely encounter many office relationships in your career.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The office is a pretty good place to meet people: You’re surrounded with other single professionals, you have common professional interests, and, for better or for worse, you see them day in and day out.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are quick tips for appropriately handling an office romance.

DO be straightforward and honest about how you feel. This is good advice for any relationship, but in the office, subtle flirting can quickly turn into sexual harassment. If you’re interested in dating a coworker, ask them on a date—and be clear that it’s not just another work lunch.

DON’T hold a grudge if you’re shot down. Just because you’ve cultivated feelings for someone doesn’t mean the other person reciprocates them. Remember this is work: Keep it professional. One of my favorite bloggers, Alison Green, has an excellent story of a guy who wouldn’t stop sulking when his coworker turned down a date with him.

DO check your workplace policies on interoffice dating. Learn from what happened to Michael and Jan on “The Office.” Although it’s a TV show, many companies have very real policies that prohibit dating between managers and subordinates, and some prohibit dating across the board.

DON’T flirt or be publicly affectionate in the office. Not only is it inappropriate behavior, but PDA can make your other coworkers uncomfortable.

DO address office gossip. Like it or not, rumors are going to spread once you’ve gone on a few dates. Nip them in the bud and be the first to address what’s going on. Instead of being vague or evasive, say something like, “Yes, Joe and I have gone on a few dates but we are just friends” or “Yes, Danielle and I have gone on a few dates and I’m excited to see where it leads, but that’s the extent of what I want to discuss at work.”

DON’T give your crush preferential treatment. If you work closely or in the same department, it’s really important to treat your love interest the same way you’d treat everyone else. This includes not telling them confidential information, or indulging them in information they would otherwise not be privy to.

In all seriousness, dating at work is a sticky situation and can have repercussions that you may not realize when you’re still in the honeymoon stage (can you imagine what the break-up would be like?). Be mindful of the other person’s feelings, as well as the feelings of your boss, your coworkers, your clients, and everyone else who may be affected.

What do you think of office dating?

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

Training On The Job: Ask About Your Options

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A new job can be a little daunting. Getting to know the inner workings of the company and being the worker your boss recognized during your interview can be stressful if you don’t have a solid support system behind you. But companies are understanding a need for new employee training.

According to this Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. employers spent 36% more on learning and development in 2010 than in 2009.” Rather than wait for the perfect candidates, companies are training new graduates and in-house staff through educational partnerships and both in-house or external programs.

This is positive news for recent graduates and career transitioners who fear their lack of experience disqualifies them for job opportunities. One company in the article says that due to lack of experienced workers to fill certain jobs, it taps into the recent grad pool, which allows the company to customize the training these workers receive in the most optimal ways for each position.

So how do you know if your company or the company you’re interviewing for offers on-the-job training or tuition reimbursement programs?

1. Check the company website.

2. If you’re offered the position in the interview, ask about job training or if the company offers any programs to help further learning in your particular field.

3. Don’t be afraid to suggest it. If your job requires you to learn a new program or the latest software, mention this to your boss and explain how it will help you do your job better and in the larger sense, help the company.

Many employers know that education is key to on-the-job success and most of the time these learning opportunities are available, but may go unnoticed. Don’t get left behind. If you’re interested in more training, ask about it. If nothing else, your boss will be impressed with your desire and enthusiasm to learn.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

Interview Prep: Identifying a Strength vs. a Skill

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The dreaded strengths and weaknesses questions is where many job candidates can sink themselves in an interview. It may be for no reason other than not understanding how to answer the question or candidates try too hard to make themselves look perfect.

Most people trip up on identifying a weakness without completely copping out and naming a strength disguised as a weakness (and lucky for you we have a whole article addressing how to form an exceptional answer). But it can be just as difficult to accurately address your strengths in the workplace—especially if you’re confusing them with skills.

In general, a good rule of thumb for identifying a skill versus a strength is that a skill is something that can be taught. Some examples could be knowledge of a certain style of copyediting, proficient with Microsoft QuickBooks, or fluent in Mandarin.

Strengths, on the other hand, are qualities that you’re born with or natural attributes. Some examples include being creative, public speaking, or having exceptional organizational skills.

Since skills are easier to teach, when your interviewer asks about your strengths, make sure you’re really highlighting your best attributes, and not just saying you’re a whiz with Adobe InDesign—that’s a skill. Another important thing to note is you should have examples to back up your strengths.

It’s easy to say you’re organized, but can you prove it? Maybe you were chosen to speak at your annual stakeholders meeting because of your knack for public speaking. Or you were entrusted with tracking your department’s sales because of your exceptional organizational skills and keen attention to detail—that’s two strengths!

Just like forming your answer to the weakness part of the question, when it comes down to evaluating your strengths it’s most important to prepare and rehearse your answer (and don’t be afraid to brag a little!).

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

The Golden Interview Technique You Rarely Use

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Interviews can be tough to master, especially for those who are new to the workforce or don’t particularly enjoy being on the front lines of interrogations.  And lets face it; most times interviews feel like question and answer sessions. And the back and forth duel between you and an employer does not make for a successful interview.

“What? But aren’t interviews supposed to be about asking questions and getting answers?”

Absolutely. You won’t get the answers you want without asking the right interview questions but the interview should be more of a conversation rather than an interrogation.  So how do you manage to make the conversation more fluid and a little less stiff?

Use the 5-second pause.

When I was studying journalism in college, one of the best tips a professor ever gave to me was applying the 5-second pause.  As journalists, we have to be masters at performing interviews and getting the most detailed and juicy answers to all our questions.  And while the journalist and job seeker are on opposite sides of the conversation, the rule and the overall goal of getting the best answers applies to both people.

So what is the 5-second pause exactly?

When you, the job seeker are asking a question to the interviewer, don’t jump into another question after you think the interviewer has finished answering. Although it may seem awkward at first, the 5-second pause will usually prompt the employer to delve deeper into answering your question or change direction and move on to another subject.

The best way to get the juicy details you’re looking for is to let the conversation be exactly that. A conversation.

If you feel awkward or uncomfortable with this concept, try using it in your everyday conversations. You’ll be surprised as to how much more information you’ll get from the person you’re talking to.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

4 Career To-Dos Before Ringing in the New Year

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It’s that time of year again. Time to dust off your dancing shoes and that list of to-dos from last year’s resolutions, because the New Year is right around the corner!

Instead of suggesting a list of career resolutions, here are a few things to check off before ringing in 2013 along with some fine bubbly and loved ones.

Reconnect
For whatever reason—call it sentimentality—people love to reconnect with long-lost friends, old flames, and distant relatives just before the New Year. This is a great habit to continue (on a regular basis) but for those who feel they need an excuse to pick up the phone, there’s no better time to do it than around the New Year. Everyone appreciates a fresh start and new opportunities to grow their network.

Update Your Resume
A new year means a new start, so give your resume a makeover—or at least a face-lift. If you’re feeling trendy or particularly daring, try going another route like the video resume or at least making your resume available online. If you’re more interested in some touch-ups, try these quick tips. If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, make sure you add recent work accomplishments or that new title you’ve just been awarded.

Be Your Best Self
This could be as simple as a haircut or a spiritual cleanse with the help of a good yoga instructor. The point is, when it comes time to brush off the holiday daze and jump back into job hunting or everyday work, you want to feel and look your best. So shine your shoes and get a good night’s sleep, because once the New Year rolls in, it’s back to business.

Friend A Few People (Online or in Person)
Have a goal number in mind if you plan on trying this out, and since there’s only a week left until next year, be realistic. I’m always practicing my people skills, whether I’m waiting for the train, working in the office, or walking on the street. Most people’s jobs require them to interact with others on a daily basis and to be the best at it means practicing every day. If you’re someone who tends to clam up and get nervous during interviews or business meetings, definitely give this a try. Practice makes perfect and it’s just another opportunity to enhance your network. You never know who you’ll run into.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career

Network on LinkedIn the Right Way

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Imagine a stranger cutting through the crowd at an event—a networking happy hour or hey, even a concert—to say, “I would like to add you to my professional network.” He quietly hands over a resume and walks away, leaving you to guess the nature of his interest. Awkward, right? Downright off-putting. Creepy, even.

So why do so many people decide to approach new contacts on LinkedIn this way?

LinkedIn, when used well, is an amazing tool for gaining valuable knowledge and professional contacts. It allows its users to reach people with whom they might otherwise never have built a relationship—people with the insight and connections needed to help them make better decisions and reach their career goals. But just as it goes with so many other online outlets (ahem, commenting sections), so many people toss aside their manners when using the network.

I’ve received several contact requests, from students and professionals, with no introduction or explanation. Man, that irks me. The guilty parties tend to be computer science students, social media marketing professionals (makes sense given my background), as well as random people who I can only assume want to spam me with promotional material. I’m not interested.

In my mind, there are three types of users who request connections with strangers without an explanation: serial connectors (“It’s all about numbers!”), desperate users (“It’s basically like handing her my resume without having to do the hard part!”), and people who just don’t know.

Don’t be like that. If you’re going to use LinkedIn, use it well. Be polite. Be smart. Be gracious.

My thoughts here aren’t revolutionary: Web etiquette, or “netiquette,” is addressed by most websites and online communities. LinkedIn, for one, clearly warns against trying to connect with strangers: “Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well…recipients can indicate that they don’t know you. If they do, you’ll be asked to enter an email address with each future invitation.”  Yeah, you don’t want that.

To avoid making a bad first impression on LinkedIn, damaging your professional reputation, and pissing off a potentially great contact, keep the following in mind:

  1. It’s all about quality over quantity. Don’t get trigger happy when you see that “Add to my network” button; know what you’d like to get out of the connection before you click.
  2. Try to find a mutual contact first. If someone I know and trust reaches out to me to say she recommended a family friend reach out to me, I’m going to accept that connection when requested. Simple as that.
  3. If you’re going to take a risk and try to connect with me, a total stranger, don’t just go with the default text—there’s a reason it’s editable. You’ve got 300 characters to introduce yourself and explain your reason for reaching out. Treat me like you would if we were meeting face to face.

Example: “Hi (insert name), I’m a programmer here in the Philly area—and also fairly new to agile product development. I thought it’d be nice to connect with you so that we can share insight, agile-related stories, and maybe even future job opportunities! I also happened to see that you used to blog about cheap things to do (incl. craft beer specials) in Philly. Awesome!”

Ah, so much better than the more robotic, “I would like to add you to my network.”

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career.

5 Ways To Use Social Media in Your Job Search

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Whether you’re a college student or well into your career, hopefully you’ve recognized that social media outlets can enhance your chances of being a top-notch job candidate. Social recruiting is at an all-time high. In 2011, 89 percent of U.S. companies used social networks to recruit employees, up from 83 percent in 2010. No matter what industry you’re looking to work in, it’s clear your social footprint matters to future employers.

There are plenty of articles that discuss how social media can hurt your job search, but I’m more interested in discussing how you can use the powers of social media for good. We’re living in a digital age, which means every industry—from investment banking to entertainment—is using social media and looking to see how employees are using these sites, too.

Here are five ways to show you’re social media-savvy and a serious job candidate.
Pinterest
A big myth about Pinterest is that it’s mainly used by women who pin pictures of cute babies and tasty recipes. That may have been the case in Pinterest’s early days, but today, that’s hardly true. For writers, designers, photographers, or anyone looking to show off their creative abilities, Pinterest is a great place to display work samples. Create a board and use it as a portfolio. Don’t forget to put your resume on there, too!

Looking for inspiration? Check out these resumes on Pinterest.

If you think you don’t have anything creative to share, not so fast. During a job screening, employers aren’t just interested in your resume. They want to know more about you, which means personal interests too. Create boards around your favorite travel destinations or a bucket list board of places you’d like to go. Displaying a little personality on Pinterest will show employers you’re fun and that you have interests other than work.

QR Codes
A few weeks ago, I read an op-ed piece where the author argued that QR codes are on the way out, but many commenters disagreed. No matter what your take on QR codes is, they are still used frequently on business cards and resumes.

Putting one on a resume might be something people in creative fields should consider, but I’ve seen people in a variety of industries use QR codes on business cards. Call it curiosity (I’m the Nancy Drew type who enjoys a good mystery), but if I were handed a business card adorned with a QR code, I’d want to find out what it linked to.

Twitter
It’s important that job seekers are incredibly careful with Twitter. One bad tweet can cripple your chances of landing a job faster than a round of flip cup. One recruiter told me how a job candidate tweeted about how much she hates work and what a bore her job is. She then tried to defend herself by calling it an isolated incident, but the damage had already been done. Isolated incident or not, no employer wants to read that you’re badmouthing a job.

Okay, okay. I said I’d be focusing on the positive, so how can Twitter come to your aid?

Twitter is a great place to talk about your interests. As a job seeker, you should be building your personal brand. If you’re interested in sports journalism, start tweeting live updates of sports games. If you want to be a life coach or career expert, tweet about inspirational stories and career tips. Whatever you’re passionate about, use Twitter to talk about it and connect with other interested parties. Not only will you start building your brand, but you’ll start building a following as well.

Blogging
You don’t have to be a writer to be a blogger. At this point, the hardest thing about blogging is finding a URL name no one else in the world has claimed yet. UGH. So frustrating. Anyway, a blog can lead to a lot of attention and a lot of work opportunities. Take the blog, Cupcakes and Cashmere for example. This blogger started off posting pictures of her favorite clothing items and writing small snippets of her daily activities, and it eventually landed her millions of devoted followers, design jobs, and a book deal.

So where should you start? Set up an account on a preferred blogging platform like WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr. Like I said, the hardest part is coming up with a URL address that isn’t already taken, but once you come up with a crafty name, the rest is history. Make sure to post regularly in the beginning.

For a case of writers block, take a look at this infographic:

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue

Facebook
Two words: Facebook timeline. This is a new feature and one that can make you stand out if you put some thought into it. Use your pictures to tell a story and to catch an employer’s eye. To get an idea of how others are customizing their cover photos, take a look at these examples.

How are you incorporating social media into your job search? Share your tips in the comments!

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career.

5 Tips to Be Taken More Seriously at Work

You don’t have to be a senior-level executive to be taken seriously around the office, but according to this Wall Street Journal article, “How to Look and Act Like a Leader,” creating an executive image will help you be heard.

The article explains image workshops teach everything from how to dress professionally to how to be more assertive. These workshops are being used by companies like Intel Corp. and Morgan Stanley “to teach ambitious staffers about executive presence.”

But innovative companies like Google and Facebook don’t require suits and ties, but rather t-shirts and jeans, which makes us question whether image really does matter around the office. The answer, of course, is debatable. Going on first impressions, I’d imagine people are more likely to listen to and take seriously the ideas of an employee who comes to work dressed in business attire, hair neatly combed, and shirt wrinkle-free.

But it is possible to GQ it up before stepping through the office doors every morning and still not have your ideas heard. There’s more to creating an executive image beyond a spiffy physical appearance.

If you’re having trouble getting through to your colleagues and want to exude a more professional and leader-like image, give these five tips a try.

1.  Put Your Game Face On
If you know you have an amazing idea that could save your company loads of money in the long run, make sure you walk into that meeting ready to go. Know the facts and back it up with research.

2.  Confidence Is Key
Confidence is catchy and more people are likely to back the person who can not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Try these confidence-boosting strategies.

3.  Don’t Fear Confrontation
This is a tough one, even for me. I’ve never been a big confronter, but when the occasion calls for it, sometimes you need to step up to the plate and stand your ground. Don’t let your colleagues think they can walk all over you.

4.  Hone Your Handshake
There’s no better way show you mean business than with a confident, professional handshake.

5.  Overcome Your Annoying Habits
Do you crack your knuckles when nervous? Maybe you suffer from excessive hand gesturing when talking. If you exhibit any of these annoying coworker habits, work on overcoming them. Remember, first step is recognizing the problem.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career.

7 Tips for a Job Interview in a Public Place

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For whatever reason, employers or recruiters may ask to interview you in a public place—say, a restaurant, coffee shop, or even—gasp—a bar. Sometimes it’s just more convenient than meeting in their office, or they don’t have a local office. If you ever find yourself preparing for an out-of-office interview, here are a few tips to get you through:

1. Wear your interview suit. Just because you may be meeting at Friendly’s doesn’t mean you should dress down. Treat it as a normal interview and dress up.

2. Check—and double-check—the location. If your interviewer asks to meet you at a Starbucks and you realize there are five in a ten-block radius, make sure you have the right one.

3. Watch what you order. Don’t order anything that’s messy. You don’t want poppy seeds from your bagel sticking in your teeth, or a foam mustache from the whipped cream on your latte. You also shouldn’t order the most expensive item on the menu—if you’re craving the filet mignon, save it for the weekend.

4. Be prepared. Have copy of your resume, a pen and paper, your portfolio—whatever it is you normally bring to an interview. You should also prepare as you normally would for an interview—do research on the company, rehearse answers to common interview questions, etc.

5. Don’t drink. If your interview is at a bar (seriously, we’ve heard of it happening) I strongly advise you not to drink alcohol, even if your interviewer orders a beverage. It clouds your judgment, and can hinder your composure.

6. Be nice to your waitress/server/cashier. You’re being watched, so it’s important to treat people with respect and kindness. This includes tipping appropriately.

7. Offer to pay.  Just like a date, when the bill is placed on the table it might get awkward. I’d advise that you offer to pay—most (normal) interviewers will step in and offer to pay on the company credit card, or at least split it. Just go with whatever they’re insisting.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.

This post was previously published on WetFeet.com and has been re-posted with permission.  Our mission is to equip job seekers with the advice, research, and inspiration to plan and achieve a successful career. Follow WetFeet on Twitter at @WetFeet_Career.