Why Having Too Many Options Open Can Hurt Your Job Search

Have you sat down, maybe recently, to create or update your resume -- only to find yourself paralyzed because you're afraid to hard-angle it toward one particular type of role?

Maybe you're thinking, "I just want to keep all of my options open right now."

And that's understandable. Options are great. In fact, I'm on a plane as I write this and the flight attendant just asked me if I wanted regular vodka or grapefruit vodka. (YES, turns out grapefruit vodka is a thing. And, be assured, I went with it.)

My point -- You don't want to be so stringent in your mindset that you miss out on something unexpectedly great, just because you were locked in on that ONE thing. 

However (You knew a "but" was coming) ... 

If you try to keep piles of possibilities open for yourself ("I think I want to work in digital marketing, but I might want to go back into operations. And I really love teaching, so maybe I should be a trainer ..."), it's going to be incredibly hard to create a resume that makes it instantly clear to the people on the receiving end how and why you make sense.

And, if you don't make sense to the decision makers (very quickly), guess where your resume goes?

Into the big, fat NO pile.

And that's one option you for sure aren't aiming for.

(BTW, the grapefruit vodka? Oh, heck yes.)

The bummer reality is that, even though we all really wish that those reviewing our resumes would magically connect the dots for us -- and make the correlations between what we've done and what we could do? They're not going to.

They won't, because they don't have to. For every role you apply for, there's going to be one, five or 25 other people in the mix who have resumes that make it very easy for the reviewer to see an obvious skills and experience match.

These are the people who will land the interview first.

These are the people who speak directly to the target audience. They've studied what the jobs they're applying for require, and what potential employers value, and they're introducing themselves as a "smack-in-the-forehead" obvious match.

They aren't trying to cover all of their bases.

They aren't trying to keep all options open. 

They understand that, when you try to speak to multiple, disparate audience at once, you dilute the power of your message across every single channel. 

These are the people you're competing with, for every job. 

So you've got to bring your A-game.

That said, if you've been trying to keep multiple options open (for fear of missing out on something), here's what you might do instead:

Choose an Avenue A.

What's the most likely or most desired next move for you? Consider making this your main focus for the next 30 days (or whatever time increment works for you). 

When you do this, it becomes so much easier to craft a resume that speaks directly to your target audience, and illustrates how you line up with the most common deliverables for that type of job.

It will also simplify how you go about your search, because you won't feel completely overwhelmed as you look at marketing jobs, operations jobs, trainer jobs, etc.

But won't I miss out on something?

Probably not. Setting an Avenue A certainly doesn't mean you can't entertain other options should they present themselves (ahem, grapefruit vodka). Heavens, no.

Instead, it eases the process of creating or updating your resume, and will help keep you focused on a day-to-day basis.

You can always modify that core resume if an opportunity comes along that's a bit outside of your primary focus area. But, by having a target message, you'll make it a whole lot easier for people to "get" what you're all about.

And when people "get" you? 

You get the interview.


Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Banalities

A Simple Trick for Figuring Out the Right Keywords for Your Resume

Keywords matter.

This should not be a news flash if you're out there applying for roles via online application, or attempting to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that you turn up in the right kinds of recruiter searches.

If it is a news flash, here's a quick rundown of why they matter:

Keywords on Your Resume:

If you're applying for roles via an online portal, there's a reasonable chance (especially if it's with a mid- to large-sized organization) that humans will not be looking at your resume first. Instead, it's going to first pass through an applicant tracking system, or ATS. 

The ATS will be looking for certain keywords, experience and credentials and assigning your resume a "match score". Only those resumes that rank as "strong matches" will move forward in the process. That said, if you're relying on this method for job applications, you need to pass through the robots or you won't receive human consideration.

(Looking for more ATS info? 4 Ways to Make Sure Your Resume Makes it Through the Black Hole)

Keywords on Your LinkedIn Profile: 

More than 90% of recruiters are using LinkedIn as a sourcing tool, to find viable candidates for open positions. Read that sentence again.

Given this, it's not only crazy important that you show up to the party over on LinkedIn, but you need to do so in a way that points you towards the types of roles you're most interested in. How to you best achieve this? In part, by making sure the keywords on your profile are the same keywords that recruiters will likely use to find you in the first place.

Given this, we of course need to discuss the big question:

How Do I Figure Out the Most Important Keywords?

Here's one incredibly simple technique that our team uses:

Make a word cloud.

It's fast, it's free and it will give you a quick visualization of the words that come up over and over again in the job descriptions that align with the roles you're targeting.

There are plenty of free online word cloud providers. We use TagCrowd and WordItOut.

Here's What to Do: 

Assuming you're targeting similar types of roles, gather up 2-4 job descriptions that exemplify the type of position -- or the exact ones -- you're most interested in. I typically drop all of the descriptions into one Word or Text file and then copy the entire block of text.

Paste it into the text box within whichever word cloud generator you desire, and ... Voila. 

Here's one we ran through both TagCrowd and WordItOut. This client was targeting senior sales leadership roles within the athletic apparel industry:



Now, you will of course get some weird, ignorable terms batched in with the golden nuggets, but what you see here are some important words that you should consider weaving into your narrative, on both your resume and over on LinkedIn.

You'll also note that there are some differences between the two word clouds, so you may wish to run your job descriptions through more than one tool so that you can compare and contrast.

It's a simple, "can do it today" exercise that will help you narrow in on the keywords that are right for your job search.

And while you never want to rely 100% on the keywords (or online applications in general) to do all the heaving lifting for you (Get out there and talk to people, for crying out loud), you will be very very wise to make sure yours are lining up with the roles you're looking to land.

Got questions? Lay 'em on us. Have a word cloud success story or other job search, resume or LinkedIn tips that work for you? Leave them in the comments below (please!)


Why LinkedIn Recommendations Matter (& How to Score Great Ones)

I get asked at least a few times a week: "What should I be doing about LinkedIn recommendations?" Or, "Do I even need LinkedIn recommendations?" Or, "How do I ask?"

LinkedIn recommendations, when they're great, can be a powerful tool for attracting recruiters and affirming your specific talents. It's one thing for you to say you're great at this, that or the other thing (and, it's important that you do). But it takes on a new level of power when someone else is also giving you a glowing review specific to those very same things.

How do you go about asking for -- and landing -- killer LinkedIn recommendations?

Let's break it down:

1. Thoughtfully Choose the Person or People You'll Approach

This is an important first step for two important reasons. Number one, you want the recommendation to pack as much punch as possible. Number two (and this is especially true if you're a covert job seeker), you don't want to raise eyebrows by asking a gazillion people at once (we'll cover this in a sec) or tip off the wrong person of your intentions. 

Make a quick list of the people you'd most value a recommendation from, and make sure you're connected on LinkedIn (or, if you're not, connect with them -- you can't ask a non-connection for a LinkedIn recommendation through the platform).

2. Make the Request (Here's How)

It's not blaringly obvious how to actually get to the "Request a Recommendation" screen on LinkedIn. The easiest way to get there is to simply go to the person from whom you'd like a recommendation's profile.  You'll see a box under his or her name and headline that says, "More..." 

Click that and, from the dropdown menu, select "Request a Recommendation."

You'll then be walked through a couple of screens that lead you to where you can leave a personalized message. (Note the word: "personalized" -- Don't even think about calling it a day with LinkedIn's canned request.)

3. Be Specific With Your Request

You've got an important opportunity with your personalized request here. Don't mess it up. You're going to get the most bang for your buck  if you guide your connection. In short, the recommendation will be most valuable if it directly supports the most important aspects of you as a professional.

So, maybe you're looking at new opportunities and notice that many of the job descriptions call for someone who is great at seeing patterns in data, and then strategizing based on this info. Well then, wouldn't it be nice if one of your people vouched for your talents in that exact thing? Why yes, yes it would be.

Consider, then, approaching like this:

Hi Mary,

I hope you're having a great start to your year! It was nice running into you last month at TechCon. I'm reaching out to see if you might be willing to share a recommendation here on LinkedIn. What I'm really hoping to do is highlight my ability to look at data sets, quickly analyze the numbers and then present strategies and recommendations.

Since you and I worked so closely on the <IMPORTANT PROJECT>, I thought you might be a great person to ask. Thanks so much if you're willing, and absolutely let me know if I may return the favor!

This is so much better than a generic request. You're not only making it easier for your contact to construct the recommendation, you're also dramatically increasing the odds that you'll receive kudos back that are directly aligned with your background and goals.

4. Space Out Your Requests

You don't want to ask 11 people at once. Why not? They come back date stamped. Thus, if you have had zero or just a couple of recommendations forever and a day -- and then all of the sudden have 14 --- you're going to look like you're out shaking down your pals to say nice things.

You want these to appear as if they're coming in organically. (You also don't want to tip off your employer with sudden ramp-up in LinkedIn activity.) 

Ask a couple of people at a time, and then wait for a bit. Rome does not need to be build in one day.

5. Be Generous in Recommending Others

Ever hear of the law of reciprocity? That's the deep rooted psychological urge we all have to do nice things for others when they do nice things for us. 

When you are generous about recommending others (you can do this right through that same dropdown menu above), you'll not only make someone's day -- you'll also increase the odds that that person will turn around and recommend you right back.

This is a great strategy to deploy when you'd love love love a recommendation from someone, but feel a little weird about asking directly. Just proactively recommend that person. You may be pleasantly surprised to see the kindness reciprocated.

It's important (of course) to present your professional brand in a strong, compelling manner on LinkedIn. Your words matter.

But having people in your network -- who have seen you in action -- applauding the great things you bring to your work?

That, friends, can be gold.

Need LinkedIn Help?

If you want to be sure you’re showing up strong on LinkedIn -- and using this powerful tool to your massive advantage --  check out our Ridiculously Awesome LinkedIn Kit.  Better still, if you use promo code LINKEDIN15 at checkout, you'll score a $15 discount.


Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Emily Tan)

What if You're Just DONE for the Year?

Oh, here they come.

Cue the tidal wave of "How to Land a Job Before the End of the Year" articles all over the internet. You'll find more of these than you can possibly shake a stick at between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, every year ( a couple of decent examples: right HERE and HERE).

Heck, I've even written some. (VOILA).

And, these tips can certainly be helpful for those who are revved up and ready to go right freaking now.

But, What If You're Not?

What if you're feeling totally overwhelmed?

What if you're just flat-out tired or feeling the intense crunch of holiday preparation, family visits, festivities that go into all hours and competing priorities up the wazoo?

What if you know you want something better, more rewarding, better paying, or more in line with your personality and values in 2018 ... yet don't have a clue what that looks like (or doesn't look like) quite yet.

What if you've been living life with your hair on fire all year (or longer) and just want to catch your breath for five ... stinking ... minutes before racing off to the next big thing?

What if that's you?

Should You Worry that You'll be Left Behind?

Will your competitors all be reading the aforementioned articles and be lurching ahead of you once the ball drops in Times Square on January 1? Will you be foolish to pause at the exact moment in which seemingly every job search resource is telling you to accelerate?


If you're just DONE for the year, then be done for the year. Seriously. Ease of the gas. Hell, slam on the brakes if you need to. The world is not going to crumble. Every job in the job universe will not be gone when you crack open your laptop in January (or even February, which tends to be an incredibly busy hiring month).

Racing out in a frenzied manner may actually prolong your effort (frenetic people tend to be inefficient people), and could result in your landing the wrong job in your haste. (I'm going to stand out on a limb here and guess that this is not at all what you're aiming for, right?)

So, for those who are just not feeling the December sprint-to-the-finish-line spirit?

Take a Pause

For real. Unplug from this topic for a bit, or use these next few weeks only to contemplate (in a relaxed, no-pressure manner) what this next job may look like, what it may feel like, who it might be with, and who it may be worthwhile to introduce yourself to in the coming weeks.

Or, if you're thinking about a pivot -- and you're up for it -- see if that friend working in the industry you're eyeing wants to grab a pre-holiday drink or lunch. 

Or, don't. 

Western culture sells us this giant bill of goods that we all have to run around like maniacs at all times. All around us, we're bombarded with overt and subtle messages that insist we have to lunge what we want, the millisecond we decide we want it. That we can sleep when we're dead. That everything has to be done with a sense of immediacy and off-the-charts vigor. That, unless we're busier than everyone else around us, that we're big slugs.

But here's the thing ... 

Activity for the sake of activity isn't necessarily going to serve you, especially if it's not purposeful, strategic or done when you can see straight. 

Rest for the sake of rest, on the other hand, will. 

So, if it's time to unplug, for the love of it all, stop reading those articles right now and scram for the rest of the year.

They'll be right there waiting when you're ready to roll (and we will, too).


Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Hans Van Den Berg)




Why You Need a Networking Letter (Maybe Even More Than a Cover Letter)

By Karen Friesen, JobJenny.com

We know that you know how important networking is to landing a new job. It’s got to be among the oldest (and most important) tricks in the “how to get yourself hired” handbook.

Since you're a diligent, proactive person (of course you are), you’ve likely racked up 587 Facebook friends, 829 LinkedIn connections and cultivated an extended network of friends, professional contacts, and family members who think you. are. the. bomb.

When it's time to make a job change or career pivot, these people could be downright instrumental in helping you, right? If you play it right,  absolutely.

After all, the people in your posse already know how fantastic you are at…all kinds of stuff. Maybe you bake like Betty Crocker. You kick the pants out of every karaoke competition, or you’re the one everybody calls when they need a shoulder to cry on or a ride for Johnny after lacrosse.

That’s all great (obviously), but the pivotal question is, do they know what makes you kill it at your job? More to the point:

Do your people have any idea what you REALLY do at work all day?

Unless you're something like a nurse, fire fighter, writer or professional violinist, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘probably not.’ So, when you to enlist help from these people who will forever have your back, guess what they're going to say? 

“Sure, yeah, I’ll keep an eye out…”

And they probably mean it with every ounce of their being. However ... and here's the challenge ...

Do they have any idea what they’re keeping an eye out for? Truth is, the majority of people you know likely have no clue specifically how they can best help you.

There IS a solution to this quandary, and it’s one that job seekers often fail to consider (or have possibly never heard of).

The Networking Letter

The networking letter lands squarely among the top three pieces of correspondence (in addition to the cover letter and thank you note) that can make a huge difference in how your job search fares.

There are plenty of ways to tackle writing a networking letter, but the goal remains the same: you want to get word of your job search out to the people who know you best, and give them clear information about what you're looking for, and how (specifically) they can help.

Here's one approach to crafting a high-impact networking letter:

1. Kick it off with a friendly introduction.
Explain the transition you’re embarking on, and request help. Your intro might look something like this:

Dear Friends, Just a quick note to say “hi” and give you an update on what I’ve been up to. After 15 years of managing the IT Department at Orbit Consulting, I’ve decided to switch things up and pursue my long-term goal to work in large-scale technical project management.

2.  Share a brief list of skills you’d like to put to use in your next job.
For example, you could say, “I’d really like a job in which I can use my digital marketing strategy and large team project management skills.” Or perhaps you could say, “I’m well suited for roles that involve building and motivating sales teams.”

3. Offer up a short list of potential job titles / companies of interest.
Here’s your chance to really help your network know what to be on the lookout for, because the type of job you seek could very well be called different things at different companies.

“Here are some of the job titles that would likely align with what I’m envisioning…”

You may even throw out the names of some companies that are of particular interest.

“A few companies I’m specifically targeting include Gerber Knives, Yakima and SawStop.”

And then wrap up your networking letter by asking the recipient to let you know if he or she knows anyone that may be helpful or influential in your search. (And, perhaps, could they introduce you?)

An effective networking letter’s power lies in the fact it goes beyond asking people to “keep an eye out." It specifically spells out what it is they’re keeping an eye out for, and what they can do if they know of something that may be a fit for you, or someone you should meet.

Even better, the networking letter doesn't always have to be distributed as a letter. It could be an email, or maybe you have it in front of you over cocktails or during a coffee meeting, to help guide the discussion.

Remember ...

The people around you – especially the ones you know will always have your back – will absolutely be willing to bend over backwards to help you, IF they know exactly how they can be useful to your effort.

So offer up a big “thank you” in advance, and always be ready and willing to return the favor. It’s dishing up those kinds of positive vibes that – more than anything – make you somebody people want to stand up for.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Matt)