I Don't Know What To Do With My Degree In...

Got a degree, but don't know what to do with it? 

If you are like 90% of students at any given university, you went to school to better your career options and improve your ability to find work. However, come graduation, it can be difficult to determine the direct correlation between a degree in Geography or Arts & Humanities with the jobs that are out there.

If you need a little help brainstorming career possibilities, I want to share two of my favorite resources. 

Based on the Canadian National Household Survey, researchers in Ontario looked at survey participant's education and occupation. From this, they created an interactive graph that maps out people's education and identifies which industries people now work in. With the exclusion of Health Sciences and Education, participants were widely dispersed throughout various industries, regardless of their education.

My second brainstorming recommendation is using LinkedIn's alumni finding function.  Simply head over to your alma mater's page on LinkedIn and click See Alumni. From there, you can type in your degree and LinkedIn will provide information on industries and top employers who hire people with your type of degree. 

Don't get stuck thinking that you only have a few career options. There's a whole wide world out there, waiting for you to explore. 

Kristin Vandegriend is a career strategist and Certified Resume Strategist who helps her clients find direction and communicate their value!  Her company, Career Story, has helped many people connect to work. You can reach her at kristin@careerstory.ca

Crafting Your Dynamic Resume Profile

Many resumes open with a profile or summary section, outlining the key attributes, qualifications, experience, and skills that the job seeker brings to the position they are applying for.

Some of the most common wording that I see in profile sections are:  

Works well independently as well as in a team

Motivated self-starter

Personal attributes like: reliable, analytical, responsible, resourceful

Able to multi-task or work in a demanding environment

Though this may accurately describe the applicant, hiring managers have seen this type of wording so many times before that they may just skip right over the profile.

The resume profile section is a lost opportunity for many job seekers.  A well-written and designed profile can draw attention to your best attributes, building intrigue for the hiring manager to read more.

Here’s an example of a Before profile.

Here’s an example of a Before profile.

As you can see, the job seeker lists multiple personal attributes. And based on what I know of this person, they are all true!  But I wanted to make him stand out so here’s how I transformed his profile section.

Sample of the profile transformation

Sample of the profile transformation

  1. I did a keyword analysis on the job posting. These are the skills he possesses that best match the work he is applying for.
  2. I used a bold font to highlight the most important information. This helps the reader easily skim over the content.
  3. I recommend no more than three lines of text per paragraph. Keep it short and sweet, yet loaded with information on the value you provide.
  4. Demonstrate you have the qualifications that the job posting asks for.

Kristin Vandegriend is a Certified Resume Strategist who helps her clients communicate their value!  Her company, Career Story, has helped many job seekers find work. You can reach her at kristin@careerstory.ca

10 Ways to Kick Your LinkedIn Profile into Tip-Top Shape

Is updating your LinkedIn profile part of your “To-Do” List this summer? If so, here is your checklist to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is looking good! 

Profile Picture. Make sure you have a professional, up-to-date profile picture. It needs to be crisp with a non-distracting background. Add a professional background picture.

Professional, Personable Tone. Write your profile in the first person, using a professional, yet personable tone. Do not copy your resume to your LinkedIn profile.

Completed Profile. Fill out all the relevant sections as incomplete profiles receive less credibility. Build up content in your Summary and your most recent job as this is viewed first.

Keyword Optimization. Know what keywords you want to be found for and integrate into your LinkedIn profile content. Look at your Skills & Endorsement section. This section should be representative of your key skills.

Make It Mobile Friendly: Make sure that the first 80 characters (spaces included) of your Summary states the work that you can do. This is all that is visible to mobile users without having to expand your Summary section.

Projects Sections. Use Projects to fill in additional information under your Experience.

Evidence-Based. Provide evidence of the work that you can do with both words and media samples. Stay away from generic descriptions and filler words.

Tangible Skills. Focus on hard skills as opposed to soft skills. It is more likely that a hiring manager or recruiter will search for a skill like “data analytics” or “cost accounting” than “relationship management” or “communication skills.”

Readability Matters. Organize the information in your summary and experience so it is easy to read. Always use proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Insert enough spacing to make it skimmable.

Keep It Concise: Quantity is not better than quality. Be concise and focused in your message. It is OK to be way under the 2000-character limit if you are doing a good job of communicating the work you can do.

If you can check off each of these items for your LinkedIn profile, congratulations!  You should now have a LinkedIn profile that stands out. 

Do you want a LinkedIn profile that stands out?  Career Story provides LinkedIn strategy coaching and profile writing. Find out more at www.careerstory.ca

What You Needs for an Exceptional LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your professional web presence. Though you may have a portfolio site, website, or virtual resume, your LinkedIn profile has the highest probability of being seen due to search engine optimization.

You need a LinkedIn profile that clearly communicates the work you can do.

What do you do best?  What do you want to be found for?

Think of yourself as a “business of one.” A good business is crystal clear on the services and products that it offers. You need that same clarity in your profile. (And stay away from those tempting, yet meaningless filler words.)

Don’t start writing until you identify your primary and secondary audiences.

One of the challenges that you may run into is writing your profile in a way that speaks to ALL your audiences. This could be prospective employers, current or future clients, colleagues, or networking connections.

You need to decide what you want to use LinkedIn for. Are you looking for work? Are you building a business or prospecting for clients?

Once you know your purpose, the hard work begins.

Research keywords that you want to be found for.  Look at your Skills and Endorsements section – are the skills you have listed the ones that you want to be found for?

Look at LinkedIn profiles of people in similar roles. What do you like or not like about their profiles?  Review websites of companies who do similar work to what you do. What words or phrases grab you?

Write it all down.

Now, what’s your unique value proposition?

Chances are that other people can do what you do.

What makes you different?  How are you better? How can you solve the problem that your potential employer or prospective client faces? 

Try to distill your value proposition into a simple phrase that you can use in your headline.

Struggling to figure out your value proposition?  At Career Story, we specialize in helping you uncover and communicate your value.

But be careful. Here’s what most people miss out on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is about relationships. A good networker connects with people in a meaningful, thoughtful, and friendly manner.

But most profiles on LinkedIn, a networking platform? Bland. Generic. Sterile.

Imagine going to a party where someone talks about themselves in formal language for the entire evening. No thanks!

All that to say that it’s important to build your LinkedIn profile in a friendly, professional way while still precisely capturing the depth of your skills, experience, and training.  

Integrate stories as evidence of competence.

The best LinkedIn profiles include micro stories that demonstrate personality, motivation, and skills. Let people get to know you.

In an increasingly competitive market, you will be up against others with similar skill sets. In the end, employers will choose the person who fits best within their company culture.

Again, it’s about building the relationship with your audience. Your content on LinkedIn is your ticket to fostering this relationship.

Want to be taken seriously? Take your appearance into consideration. 

You need a good profile picture. No ifs or buts.

It doesn’t need to be a professional picture, but it should be a head-and-shoulders shot with a non-distracting background.  No wedding photos, vacation shots, or poorly cropped pictures. 

Just a high-resolution picture of YOU looking happy. (Remember you want to make friends here.)

And add a background picture. Pixabay has a wide range of “no attribution necessary” pictures you could use.

Lastly, write your profile for readability.

One of my writing rules for LinkedIn is no paragraphs over three lines.  Make it easy for anyone scanning your profile. Use spacing and icons to organize information.

And remember, more is not better.  The goal is clear and concise communication, written in a friendly, professional way.

How to Create a Compelling Resume

Your resume is your gateway to a new job opportunity. It is your first introduction to a recruiter or potential employer. So, what you put on your resume will determine whether you get called for an interview.

If you are applying for work, but not getting interviews, your resume needs a revision.

I recently worked with a client whose resume was not getting responses from employers. After six months of job search, she was demoralized. I rewrote her resume to highlight her relevant, marketable skills and experience.  Within a few weeks of applying with her new resume, she accepted a job offer.

A good resume comes down to your ability to market yourself for the work you want.

My client already had excellent skills and experience. The key to her success was a powerful resume that made those skills and experience stand out.

To create a targeted resume, you must do your research.  A solid resume contains the right mix of information and history to prove to the employer that you are the right candidate. Without this research, creating a precise resume is near to impossible.

Your biggest clue is the job posting. What are the top 2 – 3 skills or qualifications that employers are looking for?  How do you match? Then ask yourself, “How can I best show this on my resume?” 

But a targeted resume is not a list of job duties.

Most job seekers use their resume to list their past job duties. Instead use the valuable space to highlight the ways that you have contributed and added value in the past. Your resume needs to share your stories of success.

For each of your past jobs, ask yourself, What did I do, how did I do it, and what was the result?” Add numbers, percentages, and stories to show outcomes. You may not think you have accomplishments to share, but you do.

More or fancy is not always best.

Hiring managers and recruiters scan your resume within 10 – 30 seconds, which is a short time to make a good impression.

Readability is key. Design and format your resume to ensure information appears organized and tidy. Make it easy for someone to get the information they need. Use clear headings and a modern font such as Calibri, Cambria, Verdana, or Garamond.

You control the career story that you share.

If your employment history is complicated, you are not alone. Many people struggle to know how to communicate why they have gaps, abrupt career transitions, or demotions. But no matter how complex your situation, you choose how you want to address it. With careful thought and strategic design, you can provide selective context, ensuring that your application will not raise any red flags for a potential employer.

A solid resume is not the only thing you need for a successful career transition.

Beyond your resume, you need the other pieces necessary to stand out in a crowded labour market. Before sending out your resume, make sure that you have considered these other critical aspects.

·   Does your cover letter highlight your personality and provide the right context?   

·  Do you have a professional web presence on LinkedIn?  A potential employer will certainly look you up.

·  If you land the interview, can you confidently speak to your skills and experience in relation to the job?

·  Do you have a consistent personal brand across your job search marketing documentation and online presence?

You need to communicate your unique value proposition.

You bring a special mix of skills, abilities, training, and personality. Are employers getting a true sense of you through your resume?  Take some time to reflect on what makes you different from your competition.

If identifying your unique value proposition is a struggle, let’s chat. Writing about yourself is difficult for many people. But I can help you build a clearly written resume that resonates with employers.  

Kristin Vandegriend loves helping people communicate their value!  Her company, Career Story, has helped many job seekers find work. When she is not writing resumes, she is hiking, watching Survivor, or attempting to improve her culinary skills while running after her two daughters. You can reach her at kristin@careerstory.ca

Building a Career in a Shifting Economy

Want to set yourself up for future career success?

Then you should get comfortable with finding contract, independent, or freelance work. In a study conducted by Intuit, research suggested that 40% of the workforce will work in some type of on-demand or freelance work by 2020.

For some, this concept is exciting. A chance for continual learning and varied work duties. For others, moving into flexible forms of employment can be daunting. Regardless of where you are at, you can start to take some steps to prepare.

One of the first steps is to stop thinking about yourself as an employee, but rather as a business of one. Like a business needs to be clear on what it offers, you need to be clear on what you bring and who you can help. Know what your brand is. Career coach, Rebecca Beaton, says that when her clients can't articulate the value they bring, it translates into a struggle to find work. The ambiguity makes it difficult to build up a targeted resume, create a website, or even network.

Finding on-going work opportunities is often a challenge. Fortunately, several freelance sites exist, such as UpWork and Freelancer. But you will have the most success finding the sites specialized towards specific industries. For example, TalentMarketplace facilitates the recruitment process for project managers, analysts and coordinators.

But Beaton suggests that networking still is the #1 way to land new contracts. At the heart of it, people want to work with people they know and trust. So, spending the time to get to know others in a genuine way is key. Go for coffee, initiate a phone call, engage over social media, or attend networking events.

Building up visibility of your expertise is critical. LinkedIn is the ideal tool to showcase your professional background - think about it as being your “business of one” website. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is rock solid. It should include a professional profile picture and clear content. Depending on your industry, you may also want to put together a separate portfolio site. If you are new to freelance or contract work, share your expertise through writing or speaking.

To stay competitive as a freelancer, you must drive your on-going skill development. Conduct regular skills audits. You can do this by reviewing LinkedIn profiles of people in your industry or scanning job postings to identify what qualifications employers look for. But most importantly, talk to people. This will give you the most insight into market requirements.

But before stepping into contract work, Steven Ruggles, co-founder of TalentMarketplace, suggests talking to a lawyer or accountant to get your business infrastructure in place. He also recommends taking a “lean start-up” approach. Using this approach, you quickly launch your product or service into the market. Then as you get feedback, you adjust your offering until it aligns with what employers or customers want.

Even if you are happy with your current employment, you can serve yourself well by getting some of these building blocks in place to ensure your long-term career success.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story. Her companiy helps you communicate your value through career and job search marketing materials. Find out more at www.careerstory.ca

How to Find Work on LinkedIn

How are you looking for work? If you are like most people, you are cruising the online job boards, looking for the ideal opportunity.

But by the time you see an online posting, it might be too late. Even advertised jobs are often filled by a referral.

So, it’s critical to be proactive in building your network before you need it. And LinkedIn is an excellent platform to do that.

Your Ideal Network

If you are serious about building up your career, start building up your LinkedIn network. Here are some easy steps you can take.

  1. Identify companies that you want to work for. Go to the company page and follow each company. Log into LinkedIn daily to keep track of any company updates or job opportunities.
  2. Look at the employees who are part of the company. Identify 3 – 5 people within each organization that you want to get to know. It can be someone at the same level who can give you insight into the company or job responsibilities. Or it can be a manager or HR professional.
  3. Go to the individual profiles of each person. Click to “Follow” their activity. Make sure your privacy setting allows users to see that you have viewed their profiles.
  4. Interact with the posts that they publish. Like posts and articles. Make intelligent comments or offer expertise advice.
  5. If they do not connect with you after several interactions, send a personalized connection request. In your connection request, be specific about why you want to connect. For example, you can ask for advice related to your next career step.
  6. If you hear back, focus on building the relationship. The goal is to move your interactions off LinkedIn into a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
  7. Research recruiters within your field and connect with them. Beyond having connections with employers, recruiters have an expert understanding of the labour market. They can provide helpful information on skills, qualifications, and experience that employers are looking for.  
  8. Follow your professional association and connect with individuals who work for the association.

Building Your Brand

In the meantime, make sure that you are doing what you can to build up your visibility as a professional in your own field.

  1. Start publishing your thoughts and ideas through LinkedIn Pulse.
  2. Update your LinkedIn status several times a week, but not more than once a day.
  3. Actively add new connections to your network. 
  4. Like or comment on updates or articles that your network publishes.

But, remember this is not a quick fix. This is a long-term strategy that works if you invest  time and energy. LinkedIn is about establishing trust and credibility.

Do you want a LinkedIn profile that stands out?  Career Story provides LinkedIn strategy coaching and profile writing. Find out more at www.careerstory.ca

The Post-Interview Thank You Note – It's More Than Just Thank You

You completed your interview and the next step is to send a “thank you” note. But if you think that the intention of the note is to simply to say “Thank You,” you are missing out on several key opportunities.

The main purpose of this communication is to reiterate your interest in the position. The interview process allows both you and the employer to determine if there is a good working fit. After the interview, you need to let the employer know if you are still interested in the position and why. Use this note to talk how you could add value to the role and fit within the company. Some companies value this expression of interest so much that they will not consider you as a viable candidate unless you send it. 

Did you miss the mark on an interview question? It's not too late to share extra information. In your note, reference the question and expand on your answer.

Though some people may tell you to send a physical card, email is an acceptable way to follow-up after your interview. But regardless the method you choose, make sure that you respond within 24 hours of the interview as the company may want to make a hiring decision within a short timeframe. A hand-written card has a greater chance of not making it there on time. Even if your card arrives promptly, what if the individual only checks their mailbox once a week or less?

Though you want to keep your note personable and friendly, don't make it too casual. It is still business communication. And keep it short. A few brief paragraphs will do.

After all the hard work you have put into your job search, don't miss out on this one last critical step to market yourself. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the owner of Career Story, a company focused on helping people find the work they deserve.  If you want to expedite and elevate your job search, consider working with Career Story. 

Your Guide to LinkedIn Etiquette

You’re on LinkedIn, ready to move forward in building your career or business. But as you observe the behaviors of people in your network, you start to wonder what your strategy should be as it seems that anything goes.

Here’s how you want to approach LinkedIn if you are serious about building your professional brand.

  1. Use a professional headshot on your profile. You want to look friendly and engaging. Remember, this is a networking platform and first impressions do matter.
  2. Personalize your invitations to connect. Review the person’s profile and tell them why you want to connect.
  3. Respond to connection requests and start a conversation. Get to know your network and find out how you can help them.
  4. Share useful information with your network. The LinkedIn newsfeed provides many articles that you can pass along.
  5. Watch what content you interact with. Any actions you take (such as liking or commenting on an article) are visible to your network. If you comment on content that is sexist, racist, political, or religious, you can harm your employment prospects.
  6. Avoid saying anything negative about your employer via LinkedIn.
  7. Respond to your LinkedIn message within 1-2 days.
  8. Don’t over-post to LinkedIn. Aim for several posts a week, but not more than one post a day.
  9. Respond to recruiters even if you aren’t looking for work. Recruiters have a strong sense of what is going on in the labour market and can provide valuable information. Build a relationship now so that if you want to make a career transition, you know who to call.
  10. Acknowledge life events within your network like birthdays, promotions or job changes. Send a personalized message.

At the heart of it all, LinkedIn is a way to connect humans with humans. If you keep a person-centred approach on LinkedIn, you will be well on your way to building up a professional presence.

Do you want a LinkedIn profile that stands out?  Career Story provides LinkedIn strategy coaching and profile writing. Find out more at www.careerstory.ca

3 Ways to Make Better Career Decisions

Looking back, I wish that I experimented more in my career.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to transition out of the Human Resources field. I decided to finish my business degree with the intention of moving into management.

I had it all reasoned out. I liked to work with people plus I also valued responsibility and autonomy. On top of that, I enjoyed home renovation and decorating projects.

Of course, looking at these skills and aptitudes, one career choice seemed clear. Working as a manager at a Home Depot.

Somehow I managed to convince someone to hire me as a manager at Home Depot after finishing school.

First day on the job and I knew that it was a poor fit for me. My back hurt. Helping people select dishwasher options bored me. And I didn't look good in an orange apron.

Looking back, this seems like such an absurd career choice. But thing is that it made sense on paper.

The more I work in the career field, the more I am convinced that we focus too much on making cognitive career decisions. And I believe that we need to move towards making more experiential career choices.

What I should have done was taken a part-time job at Home Depot while completing my education. Or I could have taken on management related responsibilities within my current job. And I should have asked for advice from people who were working as managers.

But I didn’t. And instead, I learned my lesson the hard way. I lasted three months before I found another job.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, trying to make a career change, here’s what I would say to you.

1. Experiment. Let’s say you want to start a career in computer science. Before investing in many years of education, look for ways to test out if this is the right step for you.

For example, you could take on a self-directed programming project. There is enough information on the internet to learn basic programming.

When you work on it, do you find yourself absorbed or bored? Can you imagine doing a job like this for the rest of your life?

2. Talk to People. Do not decide on a career choice in isolation. The tendency is to base decisions on internet research or self reflection. Before you make any serious decisions, have an in-depth conversation with at least 5 people who are in this role. Ask them what their average day is like. What are the job prospects like? What is the work environment like? When I visit my computer engineer husband at work, the office is quiet. The silence would drive me crazy, but he enjoys it.

3. Don’t Make Education Your Default: If you can, get entry-level work before committing to education. This will give you a true sense of what the work is like. And you can develop some key relationships that can help your hiring prospects down the road.

Once you are in a job, find out what training or education your field values. Be wary of advice you receive from school admissions advisors, especially at private schools. They have a vested interest in your enrollment. If you do need further training or education, make sure your field of interest recognizes both the training and the school.

What about you? How have you made your past decisions? What do you wish you did differently?

Are you ready to make your next career move?  Consider working with Career Story to develop the marketing strategy you need to stand out. Contact us at 604-614-3155 or info@careerstory.ca. 

Are You Using the Right Job Sites?

The very first job I applied for was at the Chilliwack Tourism Centre. I debated the merits of printing my resume on cream-coloured paper or using plain old white. I don’t remember what I decided in the end, but I remember dropping bringing my hard-copy resume off. 

Now it’s almost impossible to find a company that accepts paper resumes. It’s all about the online job boards. My clients often ask me, “What is the best online job board to use when looking for work?”

I would say that Indeed is my top pick. What is great about Indeed is that it is a job posting aggregator site. It grabs job postings from company websites and other job search sites and puts them all in one place. This makes it easy for job seekers to locate new work opportunities.

But recently, I came across a research study conducted by Reviews.com which identified the most functional job posting site. Their criteria included site usability, the strength of search algorithms, email features, and frequency/reliability of the postings.

What they found surprised me! Their top pick for best job site was Glassdoor. If you’re not familiar with Glassdoor, it’s a website that contains a wealth of information on companies. This site lets employees leave anonymous reviews of current or past employers. I have recommended this site to clients who needed to conduct company research. But I had not suggested it as a job board before. When I looked at the site again, I was impressed by the number and quality of postings on the site.

The runners-up for effective job posting sites were Indeed (yay!) and LinkedIn. I have definitely seen a lot more job postings through LinkedIn over the last year or so. With LinkedIn’s shiny, new interface, I suspect this networking site will continue to be a strong choice for employers looking to post jobs.

As most job seekers go directly to job sites when looking for work, using these job sites often means stiff competition. About 70% of jobs are still found through referrals or social media. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use job sites. Instead, balance your time wisely. Apply for the jobs that you are well-suited to while continuing to work on the rest of your job search strategy.   

If you want to expedite your job search, consider working with Career Story. We provide the professional job search help you need to find the work you deserve. Email Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca for more information.

5 Ways to Stand Out on LinkedIn (According to Recruiters)

Having a LinkedIn profile can make you stand out as being professional and progressive, helping you move forward in your career! I recently conducted a webinar training on LinkedIn for a group of career professionals. In preparation for the training, I talked to a few recruiters to get their tips and tricks for maximizing your LinkedIn presence and I’m excited to share those with you.

Make Your Profile Complete and Neat: Make sure that your profile is complete. For your summary and experience, provide enough detail so that someone can understand the work you can do.  Do not leave any sections blank. Vanessa, Talent Acquisition Specialist for Hemmera stated that she’s looking for candidates to have an organized and tidy profile which can be easily done by the use of icons and space.  Aim for the “All-Star” status which is not hard to obtain as long as you have completed the major sections of your profile. However, keep in mind that “Less can be more” so don’t feel you have to maximize your character limit for each section.

Use Keywords: If someone is going to look for someone with your skills and experience on LinkedIn, they will use a select number of keywords along with a location and industry target. Think about the keywords that you want to be found for. Then make sure those keywords are sprinkled in your profile.  If you are struggling to figure out what keywords to use, scroll down to your Skills & Endorsements section. This should represent what keywords represent your skill set. If it does not, then consider changing which skills you are asking connections to endorse you for. It’s easy to change the order and priority of your endorsements.

Write in a Friendly, Professional” Tone. Maz from Aughdem Recruitment shared that he has seen a movement from LinkedIn being “proper and serious” to being more friendly and professional. You can write your entire profile and experience in the first person voice. Share your motivations, story, and your why!  Let your personality come out. People want to hire people they like.

And to follow up on this, also ensure that all your communications via LinkedIn are also approachable and warm.  If someone asks you to connect, accept and then send them a welcome message and try to get to know them better. Also if you are sending new connection requests, don’t send the standard connection requests. Always customize and look for a way that you can connect to that person by first looking at their profile.

Invest in a Good Profile Picture: This advice came from all the recruiters and HR personnel that I talked to. Think of LinkedIn as your professional web presence. If you had a professional website, would you post a poorly cropped or pixelated picture of yourself? Probably not. You can obviously invest in a good profile head shot. If that’s out of the budget, you can DIY it quite easily. Just put on some professional clothes, find a background with good lighting and have someone snap a picture on your phone. And don’t forget to smile!  

Keep Your Actions Professional: Every time that you take an action on LinkedIn, it’s broadcast publicly to your connections. Make sure that anything you publish is related to your professional background and future job target. Remember, you like or comment on a post, that will show up to your network. With a greater number of religious, political, or sexist posts coming up on LinkedIn recently, avoid interacting with these posts as it can damage your professional reputation and dilute your brand message.

And lastly, here’s a bonus tip from Lucas from TEKsystems. If a recruiter reaches out to you on LinkedIn, why not take a few minutes to chat with them, even if you aren’t looking for your next opportunity. Recruiters have a great sense of what is going on in the industry and if you can build up a relationship with them now, it could help you down the road when you are ready for a new job!

Does your LinkedIn profile need a makeover?  At Career Story, we write approachable, professional LinkedIn profiles. Contact us today for a free profile assessment and to learn more about how Career Story can help.  You can reach Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca.  

Cover Letters and Christmas Cards: Why Personalizing Matters

Every Christmas, my family gets a Christmas card from one of my extended family members. It is always nice to know someone is thinking of us though often he just signs it without a personal message. One year, he didn’t even sign it. He just inserted his business card.

This makes me think of cover letters. Cover letters are an expected part of your job application. But how you write that cover letter makes the difference!  If you write a bland, templated cover letter, you risk having the reader treat it like a generic Christmas card. Stereotypical and disposable. The sentiments don’t ring true and your seeming lack of effort could actually be a turn-off.

I appreciate that our family member makes an effort to mail a Christmas card.  But how much more meaningful would it be to include a few personalized lines? Sending cards at Christmas is culturally expected. But why go through the motions if it comes across as a formality?  

Let’s tie that back to your cover letter.  Employers want to know that you want to work for them.  They will not find value in a cover letter that reads like a form letter. Now imagine that your cover letter was clearly targeted it to the company you are applying to!  It showed that you had researched the company and were familiar with the job posting. In your cover letter, you shared about how you could fulfill the job responsibilities.  Your personality shone through and revealed your motivation to do the job.

That’s a cover letter that I would want to read!  

Open to a Career Move? Let the Recruiters on LinkedIn Know!

LinkedIn has recently introduced a new feature called Open Candidate. This feature allows you to signal to recruiters that you are open to new opportunities even if you are currently employed.

It is easy to set up.  Go to the Jobs tab and then click on Preferences. 

Click On for Let Recruiters Know You’re Open and then fill in the associated information.  

Your initial concern may be that recruiters associated with your company could see you. LinkedIn promises that they will not show your profile to anyone within your company or who works with your company.  

For more information on setting up this feature, take a look at this short tutorial. 

If you are ready to elevate your job search on LinkedIn, contact Career Story. We provide premium job search services that help you stand out from the crowd. Contact Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca

A Critical Interview Question You Need to Prepare For

There is one critical interview question can make or break your chances of landing your next job. This question is often asked early in the interview process. So your answer is pivotal to whether you move forward or not. 

The question is, “What do you know about our company?”

As a recruiter, I used to do phone screening interviews for a screen door manufacturer. I would call potential candidates to ask a few questions including this question.  When I got to this question, the candidate would often stumble. They would respond vaguely based on the company name. “I think your company makes screen doors?”  Or they would say, “Where are you calling from again?”  Sometimes, candidates would recite information from the company website.

One of my friends operates a home staging business. She uses this question during phone screening interviews. If it is obvious that someone does not know anything about her company, she moves on.  Recently, she advertised for an accounting position. The candidate she selected had the accounting skills necessary to do the job. But beyond that, this candidate also expressed her motivation to work for a home staging company. She had researched my friend's company and was able to share how she could add value. 

Think about this from the employer’s perspective. Employers want to hire people who want to work for them, not just someone who wants a job!  When you can demonstrate that you know about the company and how you can add value, it makes you stand out!  

When you do your research, go beyond the company website! Employers do not want to hear their website information recited back to them. And in an age of accessible information, you can tap into a variety of information sources. Read the company’s blog. Like their Facebook page. Use LinkedIn to research who works there.  Find out if the company has been in the news recently. Try to talk to someone who works there already.

 

Because you could receive a phone call at any time, you need to do your research ahead of time. Keeping track of your job applications is critical to successfully answering this question! Create a spreadsheet or paper-based system that will allow you to quickly access information.

If you can nail this question, it will go a long ways to making a good impression!

Career Story helps job seekers succeed in the interview process. Our services help you identify ways you can authentically stand out and market your skills during an interview!  Contact Kristin for more information at kristin@careerstory.ca.  

Are You Ready For Your Next Career Move?

Recently, a friend told me that she felt pressure to make a “big move” in her career.  She initially started gearing up to look for a new job. But over the next few weeks, she started to have second thoughts and decided to pause her job search. Her friends seemed disappointed that she had not taken more dramatic action. 

But making a big move isn't always the best path. Sometimes, it making a dramatic move can actually cause more harm than good. There is something to be said for a patient, thoughtful approach to making a career move. 

I shared this analogy with my friend.

I sometimes drive by the construction site for a new mall near my place. For months and months, all I see is this huge pit as they build the foundation. It seems that nothing is happening, but the reality is that a lot is happening. I just can't see it. A solid foundation is critical! Once the foundation is done, the framing will go up quickly. This is the exciting part - seeing the building suddenly take shape.  

When we think about our careers, it's often wise to focus on our foundation before making "big moves." It may take time, but once you make the move, you know you will have a solid foundation to support you. 

Here are a few ways that you can build your solid career foundation. 

Get Work Experience: You need good work experience to be credible to a future employer. If you hop from job to job, employers may feel that they cannot trust you.

Improve Your Skills: Pay attention to the skills necessary to do your job well. Do not rely on your employer to build those skills for you. Instead take responsibility and start to look to develop your skills yourself. 

Update your Training: If you are missing training or certification to move ahead in your career, start working on it now. You want to make sure that you have what it takes to land your next job. 

Build Your Network: Career expert, Jayne Barron, says, "You need to build your network before you need it." One of the easiest times to network is when you are working, not unemployed.  If you build a strong network now, you are helping yourself out in the future! 

So what are you doing to build your career foundation these days? 

Ready to make your career move? Get the premium job search supports that will launch you into your next job! Contact Kristin at 604-614-3155 or kristin@careerstory.ca

My Favorite Free Career Assessments

When you are trying to figure out a new career direction, assessments can be a helpful way of generating new ideas and possibilities. You want to know that your new career opportunity will be a good match for your values, interests, and personality type.

It is important to note that assessments are just one small part of making career decisions. What is often most helpful about career assessments is being able to see the various themes that come through.

VALUES ASSESSMENT: Knowing your values is a key component to making a good career decision. http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org/the-process.html

PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT: This personality assessment is based on the same Jung theory as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, one of the most widely used personality assessments. Being able to identify key aspects of your personality will support you in finding work that will build on your personality strengths and attributes. http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp or https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

CAREER INTERESTS ASSESSMENT: Take this assessment to identify your key occupational interests which fall into these six categories: Realistic, Investigative, Conventional, Artistic, Social, and Enterprising. You can then see lists of occupations that you may be well-suited to. http://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip

OCCUPATIONAL OPTIONS ASSESSMENT: Career Cruising is another assessment tool that will help generate career options. Langara College offers free access. Go to https://public.careercruising.com/en/ (Username: langara | Password: college) Once logged in, go to “Explore My Interests” and then “Matchmaker and My Skills.”  You will then need to set up a basic account. Then go through the assessment to see what career options come up for you.  You can refine the results based on the level of education you are willing to obtain.

WAGE EARNING EXPLORATION: When making a career choice, it is also important to explore what your earnings might be. Try exploring career options by wages through this link.  http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/wage-outlook_search-eng.do?reportOption=wage

If you feel that you could use more support in making a career decision, contact Kristin regarding Career Story’s FIND MY CAREER DIRECTION career counselling package. 

My Reflections on Networking

Start networking.  That's advice given to someone looking for work or someone starting a business. It's often who you know that makes all the difference. Many job seekers have huge success finding work through people they know.  And referrals are the #1 way that most clients find my business.

Since starting my business, I have made an effort to connect with people. It hasn't always been easy - it has been a steep learning curve for me as an introvert. But as much as it has challenged me, it has brought some wonderful new relationships into my life.  

Here's what I have learned so far about networking:

Conduct Informational Interviews: I've written about informational interviews before. They are a fantastic way to have a focused career conversation with someone new.  The scariest part is the ask. But people are willing to share their experiences and insights. Over the last 6 months, I have done 7 or more informational interviews. And almost every time that I meet someone new, I am inspired.

Attend Events: One of the best ways to meet new people is through events. Besides events in your personal life, attend professional events. Chances are, you might not get it right at first. I attended a few events that seemed like a waste of my time. But over time, you will start to figure out which ones are best for you.  And sometimes, you just won't know unless you go!  You may end up attending a few duds, but even that will hopefully give you clarity on what you like or don't like about certain events. 

Is it scary to attend events?  Walking into the door can sometimes take courage.  My friend, Tina, recently invited me to a networking event during Small Business week.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  On my commute over, I had flashbacks to a few awkward student events I attended during my post-secondary education. But I walked through the door with the intention of having 5 conversations with new people. I exceeded my goal plus I truly enjoyed myself.  The best tool you can bring along to networking events is your curiousity (and a whole bunch of business cards!)  

Find Your Group: Part of the secret to networking is finding your people. And there are many ways to meet your people. It could be anything such as a chamber of commerce, an industry association, club, or a Meetup group

I've found a few groups that work for me.  But it has taken some time to find the right groups where I feel comfortable and where I can reach my target audience. 

Connect With Your Network: It can be easy to lose touch. Life gets busy. Part of networking is reconnecting with your existing network.  It can be as simple as a text, email or social media message. Or maybe it's meeting up for drinks or a walk. I love catching up with someone with no expectations or intentions. Just the chance to reconnect.  

Talk Naturally About Yourself: When I started my business, I prepared a dense 30-second elevator speech. However, 30-second elevator pitches do not work well for the question, "What do you do?"  I eventually simplified my answer to this question by saying, "I write resumes." This works surprisingly well. People often are interested and ask follow-up questions. 

Job seekers, think about your introduction. When asked what you do, don't state that you are looking for employment. Instead, share what you are or a core aspect of the type of your work.  For example, you might say, "I'm a software engineer" or "I help businesses by designing user-friendly apps." The key is to start a conversation, not convince someone of something before you even know them. 

Someone told me about a networking event she attended where someone was promoting her waxing services. This individual went around the room, pointing out body features on others that could use some waxing. That is a pitch gone truly wrong. Get to know someone, then share about your business! 

Do What You Love: If you want to meet more people, connect to your hobbies. I love hiking and I sometimes hike with a group of moms in the Tri-Cities. It's a win-win as I get to hike plus sometimes, we talk about work, too. 

Get Connected Afterward: After meeting someone, get connected so that you can continue the relationship. I add people to my LinkedIn network or through Facebook. Recently, I met a woman through a networking event. I “liked” her business page on Facebook and over the past month, her posts have been showing up in my newsfeed. Even though we are acquaintances, I have started to feel more connected to her. When I saw her again, it felt natural and easy to carry a conversation. 

Look to Help: Networking is about helping others. It can be making a referral or connection. It might be sharing an article related to something someone was talking about. Or it might be posting information on LinkedIn that is helpful to your network.  

Networking does not have to be a scary word. For me, it is about forming authentic relationships and helping others. And I'm grateful that opening my business has pushed me towards forming more community and connection in my life. 

How will networking change your life?  There is only one way to find out..

Kristin is the owner of Career Story. She loves supporting individuals with their job search and career guidance needs. Connect with her today at kristin@careerstory.ca. 

How Your Email Address Might Be Impacting Your Job Search

You need a professional email address for job search - that's a given.  The email address that might have been cute or funny at one point is not appropriate for your resume.  Generally, the standard of a professional email includes your first and last name.

Let's say that you do have an appropriate professional email address.  Here are a few other aspects of your email address that might be impacting how an employer perceives you.

Using an Outdated Email Provider

Email providers such as Hotmail and Yahoo email have the reputation of being out-dated. They were popular 15 years ago, but now Gmail has much more functionality and usability. If you are still using a Hotmail or Yahoo account, you may seem out-of-touch with technology. Also, internet service provider email addresses (e.g. Telus or Shaw emails) are not commonly used by younger generations.

Using Someone Else’s Email Address

If you are sending out resumes, you need to include an email address that is your own. If your name as Karen Smith, but you send a resume with the email address, fredsmith@gmail.com, you may get screened out. The employer reviewing your resume may assume one of two things.  First, they may think that you are not technically savvy enough to manage a basic email address. For most jobs, this is a huge red flag!  Secondly, they may think that you do not have enough motivation to do your own job search.  Even if someone is helping you with your job search, still use your own email address on your resume!

Including Part of Your Birthday

Let's say that your email address is George_standford67@gmail.com. An employer might wonder if the 67 refers to 1967, the year you were born. If your email address does contain part of your birth year, you should consider changing it. Don't give employers any reason to discriminate against you based on your age.

Not Checking Your Email Regularly

If you are looking for work, you need to check your email at least once a day. Even if you do not use email on a regular basis, it is a preferred method of communication in the business world. If an employer contacts you for an interview, you need to respond promptly. If an employer does not hear back from you within in 24 hours, they will most likely move onto other candidates.  This is especially important if you created a separate email address for job search. It can be easy to forget to check this email address. And regularly check your junk mail folder as it is easy for emails from employers to land here.

All the best with your job search!

 

 

 

Career Story creates resumes that get noticed by employers. Contact us today at info@careerstory.ca to find out how we can help you! 

Resume Formatting Hacks Every Job Seeker Should Know

As a resume writer, I love formatting and design! But sometimes formatting is the element that causes the most amount of grief for a job seeker! 

Here are a few of my secrets to successful resume formatting. Please note that I am using examples from Word 2016. 

Left Alignment for Dates

I love the look when employment dates are properly aligned to the left. It helps the reviewer quickly get a sense of your work history and keeps things nice and tidy.

The challenge is when you have a line of text that requires both right and left alignment. Here is how you can easily do this.

To left align in Word, look for a small box to the left of your ruler. Click on it until you get to the backward L. 

Then click into your document where you want to the break between left and right alignment to happen. Click on the ruler to place the left alignment.

Once you have set the alignment, make sure your cursor is in the space where you set the break between right and left alignment. Hit the tab button and see your text fly over to the left!

Creating Differentiated Headings

You need to make your resume as easy as possible to read. One of the ways that you can do that is through using headings.  Here are a few easy ways to quickly make your headings stand out.

Option 1: Add a Line.

Adding a line to a heading is easy. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the same line. Make sure you are on the Home tab. Then click the arrow beside on the picture of the quadrant box (Borders) in the Paragraph section.  Select Bottom Border.

Option 2: Add a Shade

Another option for making your heading stand out is to use Shading. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the line. For this option, again make sure you are on the Home tab. This time, click on the arrow beside the paint can under the Paragraph section and select the shade colour that you desire.

Option 3: Use Capitalization

One additional way to make your headings stand out is through using capitalization. Did you know there is an easy way to switch between lowercase and uppercase in Word? Under Fonts, select the Change Case button (Aa), you will then have the option to choose a variety of options including UPPERCASE.

Though content is important on resumes, it is also critical to make sure that your resume is eye-catching and easy to read. Hopefully, these formatting tips will help you create a nice-looking resume.  

If resume formatting is driving you crazy, consider working with Career Story. We create modern, customized resumes that get interviews!. Contact Kristin today for more information at info@careerstory.ca. Connect with us on Facebook @careerstoryca to receive more job search tips, labour market information, and career guidance articles.