Happy New Year!!! It’s a new year and time to shed the past and look towards creating a new future. With the economy not really making any progress and the unemployment rate still scary (double digits), it’s time for people to stop waiting on a savior (or the government) to come rescue them.  Many of the jobs of the past won’t be returning. So it’s time to dig deep and figure out what you need to do to move on with your life. The past is buried. No need to stay in mourning over something you can’t bring back.

As I peruse the various news sites and blogs, I see a fast growing sentiment of anger and despair from a whole lot of angry people. People have a right to be angry, I don’t take that away from them, but you cannot wallow in anger indefinitely, blaming Republicans & Democrats.  It is so much deeper than that. At what point do you pull yourself together and start seeking other options? Who’s to blame for you not learning new skills or exploring other career options? To find that answer, you need to look in the mirror. Hey I tell it like it is. We are all responsible for our own lives. Your life is what you make it to be and no government or corporation has an obligation to help you figure it out.

Everyone needs to understand that in this age of change and ever growing technology, you have to gain additional skills. It’s mandatory and this is nothing new. Look at what happened to the steel industry, auto industry, manufacturing, airlines, and on and on. Every year or so, another industry takes a big hit.  It’s inevitable. Before I understood that, I felt a deep sympathy for people who were ousted from their jobs. I would think, “wow, who’s going to hire all those people and save them?”. But as I got older, I realized myself that you have to stay versatile. It’s great to have that one special skill set that is bankable. But you always have to be mindful that skills (and people) become outdated or replaceable.  I’m not being mean or uncaring, I’m stating the facts. We can no longer rest on one or two skills. You are responsible for securing your future.

So what do I propose? Well for starters, make sure you educate yourself. Sometimes education doesn’t have to come from a college or university. A whole new industry and set of jobs were created by social media.  People didn’t go to school to learn how to maximize social media. They used their current skills and learned social media as they went along.  With the onset of new gadgets (iPhones, iPads, Blackberry, Android, etc) a whole segment of jobs opened up in App development. Take an inventory of the different things you like, what you’re good at, and what you would like to do. Then you need to figure out how you can gain the skills that will pave the way for you to do what you love.

There are tons of websites and books out there to help you learn just about anything. But let’s look beyond that. In the early 1900’s there were no gadgets or technology. It was survival of the fittest. If you had an idea, you could start a business or hire yourself out to proprietors. People had survival skills. So today, with all the luxuries of technology, there is no reason why people can’t switch into survival mode like our ancestors and find new things to do.  Not everyone is meant to be a business owner, but you can take your skills and market them to companies who are willing to pay top dollar for your knowledge. Look to continuing education and certification programs. If you’re currently employed at a company where they will reimburse for professional training or in a state where the local Department of Labor is able to pay part of all of the expense, take advantage of it. Also look into scholarship or waiver opportunities to help with the expense.

In addition to continuing your education, you should be networking with people who are where you want to be. Tap into your human resources to help you gain the knowledge you seek. People are more likely willing to share with you if you show a real interest. Be respectful of their time and don’t push them too much for knowledge. Many people won’t share everything, but will share as much as they can. How you approach them and how you ask will determine how much they will share. Also look for a few mentors. A lot of people will limit themselves to one mentor. But no one person can be all things to you. Diversify a bit. And also ask to shadow for a day or two so you an get the hang of the day to day aspects of their job. You pick up a lot by observing someone in their professional environment.

Stop looking for a JOB. Or rather, stop giving off the vibe that you’ll apply for every and anything just to get work. I think many people fall short here because it becomes a matter of survival and hiring managers can sense that. A person in a desperate spot exudes just that. Hiring Managers spook easily and will think “will this person leave my position if something better comes along?”. Nobody wants their company to be a stepping stone. I agree, we are not obligated to one position or career in a lifetime. But in a scary economy, you have to do your best to assure employers that you are legitimately interested, even if it is your intention to seek greener pastures.  If you approach your job search as a strategy in advancing your career as opposed to looking for a pay check, you will find yourself in the driver’s seat in interviews.  This is your career. You, not your circumstances, should set the tone and the course.

What am I saying? STRATEGIZE! All positions you apply for must fit into your master career plan. Don’t just apply for a job because it’s posted, or you like the company. Make sure you can actually do the job (and have a proven track record of accomplishments) before you apply. As it is, many resumes submitted through company websites and job boards are ignored. So if you don’t have the skills or experience, not only will you be ignored, but you’ll probably be deleted. Take time to read the different job postings and get an understanding of what they are looking for. Then review your resume and cover letter to see if you address those specific needs. Then research the company. We have the power of Google, Linked In and the like to get all the information you need about your potential employer. They research you so why can’t you research them? Plus you’ll get some extra points for knowing about them before you walk in the door. Finally, tap into your network to see who knows who in your target company. Ask for introductions to key people who may have influence over who gets hired. But don’t abuse the opportunity!

And finally, sit down and map out what you want. Where do you want to go with your career? How do you plan to get there? Who will you need to connect with to be successful?  What tools and resources do you need?  What skills do you need and how will you get those skills? And what are you willing to do to create your brand and market yourself to be seen and noticed? The ball is in your court. You get what you put in. Don’t let the unemployment numbers or ratio of applicants to jobs scare you. If you do what needs to be done, you will be a survivor. But sit on your hands waiting to be rescued, and you find yourself up a creek…literally.

Til Next Time,

Adrienne Graham


I recently stumbled across a post in one of the Linked I forums where a young lady was asking for help. She said “I have a BS in Accounting & an MBA in Finance and I’ve applied for over 1500 jobs and nobody will hire me”. Would you like to know what I told her? Stop applying for jobs. Period. You might be saying “that’s harsh” but it really isn’t. Everyone else is doing the same thing and nobody is getting the desired results (or at the least very few people are). There were tons of other constructive feedback but I felt none of them really dug into the heart of the matter.

Her mentioning that she has her degrees tells me absolutely nothing about what she has accomplished other than she was determined and smart enough to make it through school. People tend to throw around degrees and acronyms like they really hold a lot of weight in the recruiting world. Newsflash, they really don’t (unless of course you’re a doctor). You have to be sure to let people know what you’ve done, what your expertise is (and what makes you that expert) and how you’ve impacted your previous employers. On paper, anyone can look the part. But if I interview you and I can’t determine what you’ve actually contributed or done for your past employers, I consider it a wasted conversation. I’m not being facetious, I’m coming from the perspective of a Recruiter.

So like I said to the young lady with the dilemma, you have to stop applying for jobs. It fascinates me that people don’t stop to think that there are hundreds of other people just like them applying for the same jobs. What makes you so special? That is the million dollar question and trust me, if you want to stand out you better be prepared to answer it. In the mean time, there are things you can do to make sure you increase your odds of finding a job or creating an opportunity. It’s not enough to apply, you have to work at finding a job.

Tired of not getting interviews? Well take your skills and strike out as a consultant or start your own business. I wouldn’t try to do something that takes you out of your skill set. When a recruiter scans your resume or profile and they see you moved out of your skill set, a red flag goes up. You may have had honorable intentions or may be filling the time to bring in a check until that ideal job comes. But remember, you are one of hundreds applying. Your resume has 30 seconds to wow a recruiter. Don’t sabotage your chances. Now I don’t say this to discourage you. I know in these tough economic times, everyone needs to bring in a paycheck. But be careful about what you choose. You want to stay as organic to your strengths as possible.

Next, boost your networking. Don’t just be connected to people, communicate with them. Get involved. Make yourself known. But make sure you are building a list of ‘must know’ people and not just connecting with anyone for the sake of connecting. Sounds harsh but if you’re hanging out with customer service reps and you should be hanging around finance professionals, it’s time to make a change. True anyone can be a great networking source, but you have to be laser focused when you’re looking for a job. You have read me say time and time again to get out and build networks and relationships. You can’t just turn to people when you need work. Cultivate those relationships so that when you are in need, people are more receptive and empathetic to you.

Get out and get known online and offline. Do something to showcase your expertise (podcasts, blogs, guest articles, etc). Recruiters are looking at those things more than you know. Social media is very powerful and it levels the playing field. Building your professional brand is key. Show them what you’ve got and don’t be shy about it. You want recruiters coming to you, not to chase after jobs and recruiters.

Create a job opportunity. Research companies you want to work with and identify sore points that they are dealing with where you know you could be the solution. Speak to the hiring manager, department manager, etc (not HR) and ask to meet with them to network. During the conversation mention their problem and ask for clarification on what ails them. Then offer some (generic) solutions by giving them the what and the why (but not the how…that’s how you come into play). If they seem interested in hearing more, ask for an interview.

I have a feeling many of you are going to job boards and applying for everything you are interested in. I’ll let you in on a recruiter secret that’s probably going to get me kicked out of the circle. Those are usually ads to pipeline candidates. Some (not all, but some) companies have no intention of filling the jobs, only building a database. So if you choose to apply, find out who you need to get in front of that matters and go through them first to let them know you’re interested. Then apply online per protocol. You must approach online job ads as if there is a potential that it is solely for pipelining. Make sure you back that application up with some roll up your sleeves, investigative work to connect with the true hiring manager. Express your interest in the position, let them know you’ve applied per protocol and make sure it gets to the right people. You just never know in this day of technology and applicant tracking so it’s up to YOU to do the due diligence if you really want the job.

If you’re getting interviews but no offers, ask someone to do mock interviews with you so you can identify the problem(s) and correct where necessary. Don’t be afraid to connect with agency recruiters who specialize in your field. I forgot to mention if you are applying online the hiring manager will not see that application in most cases. The recruiter will be screening out and most times will not send the cover letter. You still need to include one, but don’t assume they will see it. That’s why I suggested finding out who the hiring manager or department head is and contact them directly.

And what’s coming up when you Google yourself? Make sure you’re building a strong professional brand for yourself. You want to be sure nothing negative is coming up. You don’t want NOTHING coming up about you so make sure to document your professional achievements and expertise online. Make it easy for recruiters to find you. If you want a job you have to go above and beyond the norm. Tactics of yesterday won’t work today. Make sure you are giving yourself every advantage to land that job you want.

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

Stay tuned for the release of my new book “Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter to Use Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy

22514097OK we’ve heard over and over again about how we have to get down and dirty and sometimes try off the wall tricks to land a job in this economy. Well, I have heard and tried just about every trick in the book. Some are a bit “out there” but effective none the less. You can try some or all of the tricks I’m about to reveal, but be responsible about it. Desperate times call for desperate measures so you must have the hunter instinct and be willing to try the unusual.
  • Find out who the hiring managers are at companies you would like to work at and then treat them to lunch! Managers get tons of resumes from tons of people on a daily basis. Hardly any stand out on paper, so this is your chance to shine and make a lasting impression. Reach out to the manager to “network”. Don’t ask for an interview or even intimate that you are on the market. Once you exchange a few email and perhaps a phone call to introduce yourself, suggest you meet for lunch. Then you can use this opportunity to let the manager talk about the company, their department and any hiring needs they may have. When you have your cue, mention that you might be interested in learning about any opportunities. At this point, give them a Resume Card, not an actual paper resume. If your card is designed right, it will have just enough information and key points to make you shine. But don’t leave it there. Follow up thanking them for their time and offer to forward a resume “just in case”. Then KEEP IN TOUCH. You don’t want them to forget about you.
  • Say you’re a Graphic Designer looking for work or freelance projects. Here’s a tip someone share with me. Wish I could take credit but I can’t. Do a search of Creative Director or Art Director job ads. Follow them until you know they are filled. About a month after it is filled, reach out to the new person in the position and introduce yourself.  Get to know them and make sure to let them know you do graphic design and that you are available for freelance or project work.  Ask to send a link to your online portfolio (which you will no doubt have because you ARE a professional, right?). Then follow up ever so often to establish a trusting relationship.  Of course the rules differ slightly from position type to position type.  But you get the gist of it.
  • Try the unthinkable. A few months back, I posted about a former Wall Street employee who was at his wits end. He had lost his job and had to send his family to stay with his wife’s parents so he could find work in NYC.  Well, this gentleman, feeling he had nothing to lose, would go out into downtown Manhattan and hand out copies of his resume. He also had one of those “Job Wanted” sandwich boards made. Well after almost a year, he got a job because his tactic worked.  Now I’m not saying do anything that will degrade you or make you feel uncomfortable. But as the title of that blog entry said Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures.  His tactics got him coverage in the Wall Street Journal, among other media outlets and it netted him a job.
  • Think Bond. James Bond. You have an arsenal at your fingertips that you take for granted every day.
    Remember the old Get Smart episodes where he’d get a message and after the message played, it said that the tape would self destruct? No, I’m not suggesting sending a tape or CD that will actually self destruct. But I am saying follow that lead. Everyone send resumes. We live in the YouTube age.  Many computers have the capability to play video, CD and DVD. Why not put together an homage of your past experience?  This would go over well for the more creative type jobs.  But who says only the creatives get to have fun? A long, long time ago, I had to take a series of temp jobs to get back on track financially. I decided to register with an agency and take an Admin job. Well I put together a CD with an overview of my “experience” (had to exaggerate a little because I was a Recruiter, not an Admin) and it culminated in the top 10 reasons why they should hire me. I later found out it was between me and two other ladies. I won out because of my CD. And even long after I left that temp job, the manager kept it on his desk as a reminder! You can break out your webcam, fire up Microsoft’s Windows Media Maker (which is free and already installed in most PCs) or use a media maker on Mac, and burn baby burn.  My teenage son has put together his own football highlight tape using his laptop.  Why can’t you do the same? Don’t forget to make an eye catching label and cover.
  • Drop the pride. We all have an ideal image of the perfect type of position. But in times of job scarcity, you have to adapt and accommodate.  You must be willing to step out of your norm to try new jobs. The more flexible you are, the better chance you’ll have to find a job. Now don’t resign to just taking “anything”. But keep your options flexible and open.
  • Pay per interview. Hold on. It’s not what you think. If you’re out of a job, chances are you don’t have funds to “pay” for an interview of any kind. But hear me out.  A young man, Javier Pujals, came up with an idea of paying per interview.  The pricing structure is based on actual real jobs posted and priced per level (HR, Managers/Directors, CEO/President). He gets 20 minutes of uninterrupted interview time with one of the above mentioned. The money he “pays” will go to an agreed upon legitimate charity. He set up a website to chronicle his journey. http://www.buyaninterview.com He is being very innovative and socially responsible.
  • Big companies not hiring? Well position yourself as a consultant. Attend industry events and market yourself as a “business”. Consultants in a sense are their own business. If you’re an Accounting whiz, hire yourself out to handle overflow from accounting firms.  Tax time is a great time to contract yourself out if you specialize in taxes. If you’re more of a general bookkeeper, you can sell yourself to handle bookkeeping for small businesses, or take overflow of other bookkeeping businesses. There are opportunities out there.
  • Recognize that social media and web 2.0 is dated. EVERYBODY (including me) uses Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, etc. There is nothing new or innovative about social networking any more. But you can do something to make yourself stand out from the crowd.Tap into your creativity. Know that recruiters are watching these mediums. Get out front and get seen.
  • Dress up everyday in your best interview attire and go hang out downtown.  Pay attention to the people who frequent certain hot spots like the local coffee shop or restaurant. Get a feel for who all goes in there on a daily basis. Once you’ve done your research, ask the shop or restaurant owner if you could host a group meeting there and advertise it with flyers.  You can put together your own “lunch and learn” and pick topics that would appeal to people and show off your professional knowledge. Or you could start a lunch meet up type thing. Reach out to the “regulars” and let them know that you are interested in starting a Lunch Up. Invite them to join you and bring co-workers. You get to network, meet new people and share your knowledge. Pretty extreme, but it works! But DON’T go begging for a job. It’s ok to let them know you are passively on the market. But don’t beat them over the head with it.
  • Get some resume cards made.  I create these for clients so reach out to me for more details.  A resume card is better than a resume, especially if you include your Linked In profile on it. They allow you to give people a brief overview of who you are and takes away the awkwardness of carrying around resumes. You can think of them as your own business cards.  When you run into someone who’s worth networking with, you won’t have to say “I don’t have any cards”. Who says only the employed should have business cards? Hand them out with care and be sure to use a P.O. Box address instead of your home address (for safety).
  • Volunteer. You can volunteer your time and expertise to non profits.  Keep in mind, CEOs and major decision makers often serve on boards of non profits. This is your opportunity to give back and get to know the CEO or decision maker of companies you’d be interested in working with. Now don’t volunteer for the sole purpose of connecting with a decision maker. That’s not genuine and people can spot a fraud a mile away. Approach volunteering with a pure heart and give it 110%. You never know who’s watching and where opportunities can lead.
  • Chronicle your job search (tactfully) in a blog.  Then promote that blog. If nobody sees it, how will they know of your creativity?

Step back and think about the times we live in. Every day, the media, much like a cuckoo clock pops out announcing “thousands of jobs cut, thousands of jobs cut!”.  There is a fine line between clever and stupid. Carefully plan out your tactics and make sure you don’t offend, harass or embarrass.  The goal is to capture the attention of those who may be in a position to hire you. Let them see your ingenuity, not view you as a sophomoric college prankster.  Multiple strategies will net you more leads than just relying on one or two. Combine your “extreme tactics” with traditional ones. It’s nobody’s job to find you a job.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham


As a recruiter, I have been face to face with innovative candidates trying their best to get their shot at an interview by doing something to wow me and get my attention. When I was contracting at CIBAVision years ago, a gentleman sent in a box of peanuts. Seriously, they were peanuts- the kind with the shells. They weren’t bagged or anything. Just a big box of loose peanuts. On top of the peanuts was a note that said “I’m nuts about CIBAVision”. Underneath the peanuts was a crisp resume. I had to laugh at that. I had gotten some weird things before, but never a box of peanuts. Two things came to mind. How did he know that I wasn’t allergic to peanuts and would find it offensive? I’m not and I didn’t. The other thing was if this man was willing to do something this outrageous without even considering the possible ramifications, how as a sales executive would he gel with clients?

Today as I browsed through the internet looking for interesting stories to read, I came across the story in the above link. Long story short, a gentleman who is a father of five lost his job a year ago. He was a casualty of the Wall Street fallout before it became a full fledged fall out. One day, he decided to make himself a sandwich board saying “MIT Grad for Hire” and wear it in the street, while passing out his resume. Some people might find this crude, some may find it interesting. But to me, it really is a sign of the times. I applaud this gentleman for going out of his way to stand out. I think it took a lot of guts for this man to do what he did. He ended up getting hired and that’s all that counts. People are going out of their way to be innovative and creative to find a job. Jobs are hard to come by these days and I can’t knock anyone who goes above and beyond to garner attention to get an interview. After all, don’t some recruiters (agency) pull out all the stops to get clients? It’s all about sales. Whether your on the hiring side or job seeking side, it’s all sales, and the best sales pitch (and expertise to back it up) wins the pot.

In the spirit of the times and innovation, I have put myself on eBay. No, I haven’t lost my mind. LOL Hey if the Governor of Illinois can “sell” a senate seat and Sarah Palin can “sell” a plane on eBay, why not me? It’s just an experiment I’d like to try to see if “innovation” is as accepted as people claim it is. I’ll keep you posted!

So what will you do to stand apart for the crowd? Are you ready to get down and dirty and bring out your true innovation?

Til next time,

Adrienne Grahamnew0r

Are you prepared to swing into action should you suddenly lose your job? Well these days, that’s a reality many people face or worry about facing. Nobody is safe from the long hand of layoffs and pink slips. Until this economy picks back up (which I have faith it will) nobody is safe. The key is to not wait until the last minute or worse, hide your head in the sand obliviously with the hopes of never having to face a lay off. The first 30 days are the most critical because unlike with a planned exit, you don’t have time to get your house in order or your ducks in a row before the boom is lowered.

Apply for unemployment. This is the absolute first thing you need to do. You paid a lot of money into the system over the years and this is not welfare or charity. This is money that you are entitled to. Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about applying, like it’s something shameful. Listen, you need to pay your bills, right? So why shouldn’t you get what you are entitled to? Remember, it’s only temporary and you are not the sum total of that check. Go straight to your state’s unemployment department (or department of labor or workforce center, or whatever it’s called in your state). File as soon as possible as it takes a couple of weeks to go into effect. You can have the checks mailed to you or direct deposited. In some states, you may be eligible for retroactive payments from the day you file. But check with your local office for policy. This isn’t “sit on your butt” money. You will have to provide proof that you are actively seeking employment.
Update your resume. A rule of thumb I give to my clients is to update at least annually. By reviewing the resume, it gives you a fresh insight into your skills and how far you’ve come. It also tells you where you need some improvement. Take this time to do a hard assessment of yourself. Identify areas where you’ve positively contributed and any major milestones you celebrated. Be careful not to have your resume read as a series of job descriptions, but rather a summary of accomplishments and contributions to each role. Recruiters like to look for results that occurred because of your actions. Make sure to highlight them as related to the type of jobs you seek.
Do your research. You have access to Google, Yahoo, Live.com and Ask.com. Put them to good use. See what’s going on in your industry that may have caused you to lose your job. Is it an industry issue? Is your company suffering from a setback or crisis which caused them to let people go? What are the analysts saying about the industry? What industries are strong and which companies could benefit from your skills and expertise? Who are the key players and what contacts do you already have to get a foot in the door? If you have none, how will you reach out to people who could get that foot in the door? All of this information is vital to preparing you to land your next job. It’s much better to be on the offensive than defensive.
Look at who you know. Everyone knows (or should know) that I am a firm believer in cultivating your network BEFORE you need them. If you’ve done this well, it should be effortless for you to reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to let them know you are back on the market. Ask if it is OK to send a copy of your resume. Don’t just send it without asking. It’s rude. Ask your contacts about any industry events or networking opportunities that might be helpful. Ask them if there are any opportunities at their company or if they can put you in touch with people who can assist them. If you have not communicated with them in years, I wouldn’t jump straight into the “I need a job” conversation. Nobody wants to do a favor for someone who doesn’t give them a second thought any other time. Networking is giving as much as taking. it’s a team sport. If you don’t make the effort to stay in touch in some way, then you risk not having a solid relationship with the people who could help you.
Get your finances in order. Now this goes in line with applying for unemployment. If you were a good girl and had your emergency fund already set up and funded, you should have a nice cushion. But you don’t want to tap into it if you don’t have to. That’s where unemployment comes in. You may still have to tap into it, but not as heavily. Do NOT tap into your 401K or borrow against your home if you can avoid it. Sit down and create your budget. Be realistic with yourself about your needs vs. wants. Cut as many luxuries as you can so that you have your basic living expenses. Cancel any unnecessary magazine and newspaper subscriptions, downgrade your cable, phone and cell services and get rid of memberships (ie. gym). Learn to do your own hair and nails (it won’t kill you). Immediately cease all shopping and eating out. If you didn’t have an emergency fund and can’t wait for unemployment, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are church based and community programs in some cities where you can request one time assistance with your rent/mortgage and some utilities. These programs are for people who really need it. If you really need it, go apply.
Go online and see who’s hiring. Now is the time to hit every job site you can think of. Google search for niche specific sites. Visit the websites of the companies and fill out their online applications or submit your profile & resume. Update your Linked In profile to reflect your true skills. Investigate who’s recruiting for certain companies and reach out to them. Introduce yourself via email and ask for a brief phone conversation. This will put a voice with the name. Do not just send your resume to every company, or every recruiter. Compose a personalized cover letter/email for each person you contact. And most importantly do not mass email or CC your email to a bunch of recruiters. You will not be taken seriously.
Hit the pavement old fashion style. Yep, that’s right. Get out those pumps and your best suit and get out there. A lot of companies will tell you to “apply online”. But I always say it’s best to submit your resume anyway. You may get lucky and run into someone who’s a decision maker. Don’t be afraid get out there. It’s better to get your face out there and known, than to remain an anonymous name on an email or profile.
Sit your family down and explain that changes need to be made. If you have kids, you need to get them involved. A lot of parents feel kids don’t need to know about the family finances. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents never discussed money with us and we grew up financially illiterate. I tell my son about our finances. Kids need to understand WHY they can no longer have the little miscellaneous luxuries they used to. If they’re old enough, they can get a part time job to help pitch in or at least take care of their own expenses (like lunch money, haircuts, etc). Today’s kids are innovative, creative and wired. You never know what money your kid could make on the internet. They could have an eBay business, web design, tutoring, or any number of things they can use their skills doing. Yes, kids need to be kids, but I believe in preparing kids for the future aka the real world. If they understand the flow of money in and out of your household, they’ll learn to appreciate what they have and might even be inclined to help contribute to the household.
Educate yourself. If you can afford to go back to school, great. But there is no law that says education has to come from a classroom. You can read books, magazines and journals from your industry or field of interest, fire up the internet and look for free tutorials and articles, attend industry events, take continuing education or certification courses, or simply reach out to people who are where you want to be and start a dialogue. If you decide that you can go to school (as in college or trade school) look into financial aid. If you truly want to advance or change careers, make the investment of your time and dedicate yourself to completing a program.
Take a part time or contract position if one is offered to you in the mean time. I tell people that nothing is forever, and this includes contract positions. Working part time or on contract is an option if you don’t want to file for unemployment. It keeps your skills fresh and income coming in while you’re looking for full time employment. It also gives you the advantage of meeting new people and building your network.
You are responsible for your own career and well being. When you’re fired or otherwise terminated, it’s never a happy time. But you can’t retreat and hide away from the world. You need to be proactive and take control of the situation. You may not feel in control without a job or steady paycheck, but trust me, if you take care of everything I outlined above, it will ease your mind. You’ll have a handle on what’s going on, coming in and going out. It will be a tough time, but if you take action immediately within the first 30 days of losing your job, you’ll be able to stay afloat and in control until your next job comes along.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

Remember a time where during your senior year of college, people had big hopes of graduating and landing that cushy job even if it was entry level?  Remember how companies threw themselves at the top upper echelon (grade wise) on campus? Ah, those were the days.  You barely had to do anything during your four years but go to class and get good grades.  And if you went to an ivy league or high profile school, you had it made in the shade. Not so much today.

I think our younger ladies are a little bit more aware than we were years ago.  The economy and job market are clearly evident.  Recruiting budgets have tightened, companies have collapsed, people have flooded the job market.  Upcoming grads are worried about finding any kind of job when they leave the comfort of college.  OK before you think this is another gloom and doom post, it really isn’t.  I’m here to tell you that you can make it.  You just have to get on the offensive and not wait for things to work themselves out.

I usually tell young people to focus on their studies during their first year without any thought to working if they can. I still stand by that, even as my own child approaches college. But by year two, you better start on your game plan. Hopefully by your sophomore year you have a pretty clear idea of what it is you want to do.  You may even have a part time job to tide you over.  But what you should be working on is internship. Internships (while mostly available for juniors and seniors) are an excellent way for you to get exposure in the industry you’re interested in. Take this time to investigate the types of internships out there, the companies offering them and the criteria for landing them. Talk to people who have interned to get an idea of what it entails.  Whether paid or free, you stand to gain some valuable experience and contacts if you play your cards right.  And remember, internships and volunteer work counts on your resume.  Don’t let anyone tell you any different just because it was an unpaid gig.

By Junior year, you should already have your internship research together and have submitted (and hopefully offered) for internships.  Here’s where you really learn stuff you can’t learn in the classroom. If you haven’t learned how to network yet, get to it.  The contacts you make now can serve you well in the long run.  Classmates, dorm mates, associates at internships all make great contacts. Get to know them and keep detailed notes on your meetings, any commonalities, and favors they’ve done for you.  Remember, it’s about building relationships and relationships are two way streets. Get out and meet the key players in your industry.  Ask for introductions as necessary. This is your time to get to know people and tell them about you.  Hold on, this isn’t meant to be a brag fest.  You are still a newbie to them. And this isn’t time meant for you to pester anyone for a job.  You are on a fact finding mission. Your objective is to learn as much as you can from the best.  You might even get a mentor or two out of it.

While we’re on mentors, get one (or three). This is the best time for you to ask for a mentor relationship.  You are still green and people love to be able to pass their wisdom along to up and coming talent. Don’t let you young ego get in the way. You must remember you don’t know everything (and in some cases, anything).  Show your mentor that you are serious about learning and that you are willing to do the work it takes to be successful.  Don’t waste your mentor’s time.  When you meet with them, have questions ready and research available on issues you still need clarity on.  Make sure you make the meetings worthwhile.  Mentors have busy schedules and a lot to do.  Mentoring you is a small microcosm of their world. There is business to be done and deals to be made. So be respectful of their time.  Do more listening than talking. No further explanation needed. Learn what they like (golf, tennis, etc) and then learn it yourself. Trust me on this. It’ll come in handy.

By senior year, you should have the mentoring, networking and internship thing down.  And hopefully you’ve taken most of the classes you need so your schedule shouldn’t be as tight.  The beginning of senior year should be the time you start researching the job market and getting to know recruiters and hiring managers.  Pay attention to the market and the type of jobs out there.  Reach out to recruiters to get an idea of how they can help you.  Don’t waste their time either.  Remember, they are there to fill jobs with the best candidates, not find you a job.  Ask for tips on getting your resume noticed.  Share with them your professional goals and any past experiences (internships, volunteer work, etc).  Attend open houses and career fairs.  Typically I don’t like job fairs, but you can learn a lot from them and get names of recruiters you can reach out to directly after the events.  Turn to your college career office to seek some advice from counselors.  Use them to get an indication of what’s out there as well.  Have a professional resume done.  No, not a template you snatched off the internet.  Have a professional put together a solid resume that shows your accomplishments.  If you’re in a sorority, tap into that as well.  Your sorors can help you in many ways, especially if it’s a very active sorority.  

Now, I’m going to deviate just a little bit to sound like a “girl”.  You know how they say image is everything? Well it is.  No doubt, for the last few years you’ve been throwing your hair into a ponytail or wearing a hat to cover up and I will venture to guess you haven’t been shopping for professional wear.  Well now is the time.  I know you’re thinking in this economy, how could I possibly preach about shopping and pampering yourself?  Don’t panic. There’s a method to my madness.  Find that fashionista friend and ask for some input.  Of course you can’t afford to get an image consultant as a student (unless you’re loaded).  So this is the next best thing.  Have this friend go to the mall and boutiques with you to try different professional styles.  Ask the sales reps for opinions and see if they offer up any suggestions. Learn what colors, fits and styles work best on you.  Take magazines with you as guides.  Here’s the creative part.  While you’re looking at the prices and clothing at these malls and boutiques, make notes.  Then go to the best consignment shops and get these items (or similar) for dramatically less money. I once picked up a Chanel suit, that looked brand new, for $5.  So don’t laugh!  Pick up key classic pieces that can be mixed and matched.  And by all means, get appropriately fitting underwear, tasteful accessories, 1 or 2 pairs of good shoes and a classy handbag.  Save the patchwork Coach and multi colored LV for weekends.  I’d even throw in a classic briefcase (depending on what field you’re going in).

Use online social networks responsibly. I know you like to be free to post what you feel and what you want on Myspace, Facebook and a host of other sites.  I caution you to think before you post.  If you are going to have a page on social sites, keep them separate from your professional identity. Recruiters and hiring managers do use these sites to source candidates.  And yes, what they find can make or break their decision to reach out to you.  Always keep a sense of dignity and decorum about yourself and never post anything distasteful on your pages.  Linked In is great for a professional profile, as is Viadeo if you want to do some international networking.  Don’t create a resume page, rather, an overview of what you’ve accomplished and your professional objectives. Don’t over do it.  Leave readers wanting to contact you for more details. If you’re going to be blogging, I beg you to please keep it clean and sane.  The last thing you want is recruiters to find you arguing with some moron on the internet over an inconsequential topic. Watch what you say and when in doubt, read three times before hitting send, and even then, ask someone else to read it.  Your online image weighs heavily on your real life image.

Finally, I would say that you should make it a point to join groups in your industry.  Make it a point to attend the various meetings, which are often monthly.  You can make key contacts and learn some valuable intel that can help you with your search.  Get to know the people and don’t be afraid to volunteer.  Remember, you want to get your face and name out there.  Become a part of the conversations by keeping up on your research and sharing what you learn.  This is also a great time to ask for clarity about things you’re unsure of, and you’ll get it straight from people in the know.

So if you’re a student in college, don’t wait until senior year to try to make things happen.  Your career is an ongoing process. You have to cultivate it and do your part to make it come to fruition. Nobody is going to prepare you, so you must prepare yourself. Start your game plan as soon as possible and while I cannot guarantee total success, you’ll be ahead of the curve and ahead of many of your classmates.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Let’s face it, the market is tight and jobs are at a premium. While I do encourage you to use any and all resources available to find a job (job boards, associations, company websites, news ads, social networking sites, etc), I encourage you to be more self sufficient and proactive and tap into your network. One of the things I ask of the corporate folks in my networks is to let me know when they’re on the market or about to be. It helps me to better determine who I should put them in contact with. And sometimes, I might even be working on a position that I can recommend them for. This is why I tell people to get proactive and start the search before you get the axe.

I always recommend reaching out to your network when you are passively or quietly exploring opportunities before you actually need to look. I’m pretty sure the folks on Wall Street (the top folks who had ample warning that is) started reaching out to people they knew because they saw the writing on the wall. Starting before an impending threat of lay off or your resignation is the best time because you are not under as much pressure and you already have a job. It is easier to find a job when you already have one. Chalk that up to the law of attraction. When you’re passively looking, you are in a better position to see what’s out there and shop around without any pressure to make a quick decision. Start by targeting the companies and industries you want to explore. Then check within your network to see if there are any direct people you know who work at these companies that you can reach out to. In this instance, I would recommend picking up the phone and making a call to catch up with the person and suggest meeting. Whether you meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch it doesn’t matter. You want to get that face time. Ask for a time and location that is convenient to them. Remember, you don’t want to inconvenience them.

When you meet, keep the conversation light on business. It is an informational meeting not a job interview. Ask your contact about the state of the industry (which you should already know) and how it affects their company. Let them know that you may be considering a change and ask their opinion about what direction you should take. This leaves an opening for them to tell you about opportunities they know of in their company or with other companies where they know someone. And if there aren’t any opportunities now, at least you’ll be in the forefront of their minds when one does come up. Be sure to highlight a few of your best accomplishments and how you feel they translate into being qualified for other roles. Have a clear idea of what it is you want to do, otherwise you’re really just wasting your time and theirs. If you have a specific goal, then you can have a focused meeting.

Keeping up with what people are doing is in your best interest. Suppose you know a Recruiter who works for a Fortune 100 company you’d love to get into. And you know talking with her will at least get a foot in the door for you to meet the IT Director. But she has changed gears a couple of times since you spoke to her 3 years ago and is now the Director of Communications for the company. Technically she is still a ally, but she is no longer in the same capacity to get you any face time with the hiring manager. Sure there’s a small chance she may know this person and could help you somewhat. But you haven’t kept in touch with her so you don’t know what her relationships are within the company. By keeping up with people in your network, at least annually, you can better plan your approach when looking for leads.

Updating your resume at least annually is critical. Even if you’ve been with your company for 9 years, you never know what might happen. Ask the folks on Wall Street who lost jobs at their 100+ year old legacy companies. Nothing is guaranteed. Even if you don’t want to do a formal resume (which I think you should) keep a journal. Note any projects, accomplishments, promotions, increase (or decrease) in responsibilities, project outcomes, training, etc. Keep track of conferences, continuing education or workshops you were required to attend. All of this helps build the foundation of your resume. Also keep note of salary increases, bonuses and reviews. By keeping a journal it makes it easier to put together your resume the correct way. Remember, a resume is not a regurgitation of job descriptions. It is a tool to show your best professional self.

Finally keep your brand fresh. Continue aligning yourself with projects, volunteer work and events that are in sync with your authentic self. If you do not create or define your brand, someone else will. You always want to be in control of your brand and how people see you. Position yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) by using the appropriate forums and mediums to display your knowledge.

Career management is a long term thing. You can’t just focus on it when you feel you may lose your job or want to quit. The more time, effort and thought you put into it, the less time you will have to look for a job or be unemployed. Keep your network warm and it’ll be easier to pick up the phone when it’s time to look. If you only contact them when you need a job, don’t expect a warm reception. Build those relationships and make them work for you. I promise you will love the return on investment you’ll receive.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham