“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”
~ Zig Ziglar ~
Client Bart Asks: I have a couple of job interviews coming up next week. A friend told me I ought to invest in a whole new wardrobe, including an expensive looking watch. I’m a pretty casual, laid-back guy. I’d feel almost like a phony in a three-piece suit and a Rolex watch. What should I do? Can the wrong clothes truly hurt my chances of getting hired?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a three piece suit and a Rolex. Let’s talk about how you want to be perceived by your interviewers.
Before a job interview, I advise my clients to write down three adjectives to describe how they want to be perceived. For example, one client listed “professional,” “experienced” and “energetic.”
Everything you say or do during the interview should reinforce the adjectives you choose, including every aspect of your appearance. This includes your shoes, your belt, your haircut. And, yes, even your watch.
When the employer meets you, they are judging the first thing they see and that’s your personal appearance. It’s extremely important that you don’t do anything that would undermine how you are perceived. So before you start planning your wardrobe, you need to consider the company and its culture. For example, many high-tech and entertainment companies pride themselves on a dress code that’s casual and laid back. They have an “almost anything goes” rule. That being said, you should still choose something just a cut above what’s customary for that company. If jeans are the order of the day, choose casual slacks and an open collar shirt. A three piece suit and tie would be overkill and would let the interviewer know you hadn’t done your homework.
On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with a bank or a stock brokerage, wear a suit even if you know your job is going to be in a back room somewhere. It’s always easy to scale down after you have the job, but scaling up after that first impression could be difficult.
As you role play the interview in your mind, here are some tips on how to dress for success during your job interview:
- Start with a smile and a firm handshake. Practice with a friend if you need to.
- Avoid wearing anything that attracts too much attention. No jangling bracelets or day-glo t-shirts.
- Men should consider having a clean shaven face.
- Minimize the amount of skin you’re showing. No tank tops or mini-skirts.
- Eliminate unusual hairstyles. Avoid pink or green hair dyes.
- Cover or remove tattoos and extensive body piercings.
- Leave off cologne or perfume. Many people have allergies to these products and some companies have a policy that prohibits them.
- Make sure your teeth are brushed and your mouth is fresh, but don’t chew gum or candy during an interview.
Remember, when you go for an interview, you’re marketing a product—that’s you. You are expressing your personal brand, telling your prospective employer who you are and what you’ll bring to the company. You may only be there for a few minutes—make them count.
If you’re in the job market you need an interviewing game plan. Before your next interview, put together a couple of outfits that are both low-key and impressive. Borrow accessories from a friend, if you need to. Dress for success!
Talkback: Have you ever been in an interview situation where you felt you could have been better dressed? Do you think it kept you from being hired? What would you do differently next time? Share your story here.
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Salary is Important, But so are Benefit and Compensation Packages
When it Comes to Looking for a Job
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston ~
Client Kevin Asks: I got an offer letter from the company I really want to work for. It’s a pretty low offer. Do I just take what I can get and hope to work my way up once I’m there, or is there a way to negotiate for more right up front?
Coach Joel Answers: Most companies expect you to negotiate, once an offer has been made. It’s not whether you negotiate that’s important—it’s HOW you negotiate that matters. Begin by thanking the hiring manager for the offer. He or she wants to hear how much you’re interested in joining the company and being part of the team. Companies want candidates that want to work for them. Reiterate the skills and experience that you bring to the table and how your past experience will add value to their company. Your goal is to develop a win-win situation for the two of you. If your negotiations are sincere, thoughtful, professional, and respectful, you’re far more likely to have a successful outcome.
Don’t be cocky in your approach, and above all, don’t lie or exaggerate about other offers. You may be the best candidate for the job, but rarely will you be the only candidate in today’s market. If you come off as arrogant or over-confident, your potential employer will likely select the next best candidate. Don’t try to play one employer’s offer against another. This makes it seem like the only thing you’re concerned with is money. Money should not be your primary concern if you’re choosing between two positions. If it’s only about money, the hiring manager will know that, if you get another offer, you’ll be likely to leave their company on a financial whim.
Remember, salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. There are many other benefits that a hiring manager may have more flexibility to offer. Vacation time is one of the most common perks people negotiate. Wouldn’t getting three weeks of vacation instead of two mean a higher quality of personal life for you? Stock options, bonuses, compensation package, commission, holiday days, telecommuting benefits, even the amount the employer contributes to your health insurance—these can all be negotiated. Sometimes perks and intangibles are more important than the net amount on your paycheck because they contribute to a higher quality of work and personal life.
What if there’s no give at all on your potential employer’s part? If you’ve presented a good, solid business case for why you should get a certain compensation package, and the answer is “No,” you need ask yourself these questions: Are you unemployed and desperate for a job? Do you see a huge opportunity to advance in this company? Would you really enjoy the job itself? Are there other benefits that make the job attractive? Can you meet your current financial obligations with the offer as is? If so, then you may want to accept the position. However, it may be that this simply isn’t the right opportunity for you.
Keep looking. Your perfect job is out there.
If you are preparing for a salary negotiation in the near future, write down all the aspects of the job as well as the benefits and compensations that are important to you. Make two lists: “have to have” and “nice to have.” This will help you know when to stay and when to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Talkback: Have you ever accepted a lower salary than you wanted in exchange for some perks and benefits you liked? Share your experience here.
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“I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. ‘You’re fired’ is a very strong term.”
~ Donald Trump ~
Tricia just got fired. Security is putting her personal items in a cardboard box and escorting her to her car. She is in shock.
What now? Her first reaction is to drive far, far away and scream loudly about the unfairness of it all. Doubtless this has happened to the majority of you at one time or another. And screaming, however good it might feel for a moment or two, is not the answer. Instead, follow this plan for closing the door on the past and opening the door to new opportunities.
Stay calm. You may be tempted to verbally retaliate, especially if you feel the firing was unfair, and you probably do. Instead, keep calm. Having a conversation now, while tensions are high, can lead to saying things you’ll regret later.
Be thankful. Thank your boss, the HR representative, or whoever else just let you go for the opportunity they have given you. Be sincere. Any job is an opportunity to learn. And despite being fired, these very same people may be critical to you landing your next position.
Update your social media. Don’t rush to Facebook and slam your now former employer. Don’t tweet sarcastic haikus on Twitter. Instead, let the world know you’re now in the market for a new opportunity. Focus on the positive.
The Next Day
Register for unemployment. In most states, as long as you weren’t fired for willful misconduct, you’ll be eligible for unemployment. Not only will these benefits help tide you over financially while you’re planning what’s next, but the state job service is a valuable source for locating open positions.
Polish up your resume. – Highlight your key skills and experience that fit the types of positions you’ll be applying for. Use quantitative results to really show the value you’ll bring to your next employer. (“Reduced department expenses by 15%.” “Increased sales by 12%.”) Don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments!
Start networking. Contact your industry acquaintances and others outside of your industry to let them know you’re in the market. Even if they don’t have an open position ask, “Who else do you know that might be interested in my skills? “Often, the best positions are filled by internal referrals.
Use Internet job boards to the max. There are two ways employers find candidates on job boards: by your response to their job postings and by finding your resume when they search the site.
Create a system. Track each position you apply to, each website you register with, and every person you network with. Because your next move involves following up.
The Next Week
Follow up. Send everyone you’ve contacted a quick e-mail, or give them a call. Remind them about your last conversation and what you’re looking for.
Directly contact companies you’d like to work for. Some of the best positions never reach public job postings. If a company is interested in your skill set they may even create a position for you. If you’re a fit, they know they are making a good investment.
Tricia vowed to treat her job search like a full time job. Although the distractions of being at home were difficult at first, she scheduled her day around the search–eight hours every day, either networking, job searching, or following up. She found her new job in less than six weeks.
No matter where you are in the fired-or-laid-off process, review our checklist and make a plan. Do the things you haven’t been doing and drop the things that aren’t producing results.
Talkback: What’s been your job search strategy? Share your tips and successes here.
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“It’s having no foresight that makes the temporary unbearable.”
~ A. Lynn ~
Client Renee Asks: I’m currently temping for a company that I absolutely love. I’d really like to work for them full time. How can I get them to consider me for a permanent position?
Client Joel Answers: Sounds like you are on a test drive. Test driving employees is what many companies do to get to know you before they make the investment in bringing you on board permanently. If you are currently temping, the company may be checking you out. Obviously, what each employer looks for during this test drive phase is different. However, if you think you’re on a test drive right now, here are two important questions your prospective employer is trying to answer.
- Can you walk the walk?
A lot of people can give a dynamite interview. They tell the hiring manager exactly what he or she wants to hear, and their resume looks like they have the right skill set. However, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If you’re on a test drive, the employer is giving that pudding a taste. If you’re as great as you say you are, chances are you’ll have a good shot at joining the team permanently.
- Do you fit the culture?
Your employer is also test driving some of your more qualitative aspects. How are your personal skills? Do you fit well with the other team members? Do you communicate effectively? Do people like working with you? An interviewer will try to get a feel for these qualities, but really can’t know for sure until you are in place and interacting with your potential co-workers.
Ready to make your mark? There are two questions you need to answer:
- How do I stand out?
- What mistakes should I avoid?
How do I stand out? Standing out as a temp starts with doing the job you were originally hired do to while looking for opportunities to go above and beyond. Don’t just wait to be handed extra projectsor given additional responsibilities. Ask for them! Share with your supervisor and the hiring manager your other areas of expertise.
Also, don’t be afraid to let the company know that you’d love to be brought on full-time. Even if the position you’re currently temping for is truly temporary (filling in for someone who is out on medical leave, for example), look for other open positions where you’d fit well, and talk to the hiring manager about transitioning after your temp assignment is over. Point out the advantages you offer: they know your skills, you know the company, and you’ll save them the time and money of conducting another search.
Most important, be happy to be there. Make your co-workers look forward to seeing you every morning. Socialize if that’s part of the culture—go out for coffee or lunch when you’re invited. Bring a batch of cookies or a box of donuts for the team. There is nothing worse than a temp who comes in and just goes through the motions, ignoring co-workers and acting like they’d rather be anyplace but there. A positive, can-do attitude can make an employer want to keep you around.
What mistakes should I avoid? Obviously, if you come in late, don’t get along with other employees, and complain about the work, the company or being a temp in general, chances are you’re not going to seem like a desirable addition to the team.
And although you may have great ideas about how to do things or improve certain processes, be very careful how and when you share your thoughts. The phrase, “At my old company, we used to. . .” can become like nails on a chalkboard.
Being a temp can provide you with terrific opportunities for full time employment, if that’s what you want. When you start a temp job and you know that permanent employment is your goal, have your strategy in mind from Day One. Look upon every meeting, work assignment, or interaction with other employees as an opportunity to polish your image in the company’s eyes. Visualize yourself as a permanent employee, act like one, and before long—you will be one.
If you are on a test drive of your own right now, make a list of five things you can do in the next week to make yourself a standout to your employer. Start by implementing #1 tomorrow.
Talkback: Have you made a successful transition from temporary to permanent employment? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
~ Arthur Ashe ~
Client Garrett Asks: I’m considering a career change, but it’s been a while since I’ve had to look for a job. Is there anything I need to be aware of before I start my job search? Coach Joel Answers: Whether you are unemployed or employed and looking for a job, you need to be prepared before the job search even begins. When you start your job search with a plan, your strategy, daily game plan and overall focus help you find the right job more quickly. Don’t be like most people who start a job search by immediately applying for jobs, sending out updated resumes and telling people the 4-5 jobs they want without any thought process before they jump in.
1. Prepare for a long job search.
On average candidates take about six to nine months to find a job. Even though you might have excellent experience, a solid track record and well-known companies you’ve worked for, the job search period will be longer than you expect. It’s vital that you are prepared for this extended amount of time. Even the most qualified can take up to a year.
2. Be financially prepared.
Make sure you have enough finances to cover the length of your job search. Save as much money as you can, cut expenses and create and stick to a budget.
3. Confront fear and self-doubt.
Even before you start your job search, it’s common for many to feel fear and self-doubt. Fears around not being able to find a job, it taking too long, doubting your confidence, becoming needy to find a job and questioning your overall worthiness.
4. Dedicate plenty of time to the job search.
The more time you spend daily, the less time the job search will take. However, most people resist making the required commitment. The minimum amount of time to commit should be 20-25 hours a week and, if you aren’t working, the maximum amount should be 40 hours a week. If you are working, expect to spend 4-6 hours a week and the maximum will be 20-25 hours a week.
5. Create a daily schedule.
Schedule and make time for the most important things related to your job search. Block out chucks of time to avoid distractions. For example, you might designate 9-11:30am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for you to work on the most important things that need to get done related to executing your job search plan.
6. Get organized.
Create a document (e.g. Excel spreadsheet)to track the names, numbers, emails and vital information about your contacts as you move forward in your job search. This organized document will be vital as you follow-up with people you contacted in the past and need to recall their key information.
7. Evaluate job locations.
Ask yourself questions about the location of your next job. Are you willing to live in other locations? If so, where do you want to live? Once you have accomplished all of the above, you are now ready to target the exact role, industry and job you most want. This involves creating your resume, networking, interviewing and salary negotiation.
Follow the advice in Joel’s Job Searching book and get your next job quickly. Click here to buy the book
Talkback: Have you conducted a job search lately? What tips do you have for others who are planning to change careers?
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