6 Tips for Taking Charge of Your Career in 2014

Article by Belinda Fuller

When I was made redundant several years ago, I had a great job that I loved and a baby on the way. At six months pregnant no one wanted to hire me for similar roles to what I had been doing, so I had to re-think. I’d been planning on taking 12 months maternity leave anyway, so was lucky I had some breathing space to work out what I needed to do. Taking charge of your career and ensuring you do everything in your power to remain competitive is a great New Year resolution but where do you start? Here are 6 tips to help you on the way:

1.  Update Your Resume – have a new Resume ready to go and don’t wait until you’re ready to apply. I encounter many clients who come across the perfect job, get approached by a company who wants to see their resume, or even get made redundant out of the blue. They then have to rush the process of updating or creating a new Resume. Update your resume today and make sure you keep it updated for the future.

2.  Don’t be Bashful – employers want to know what you’re good at and what you can do for them. It’s no point being self-conscious when you’re talking about yourself. You need to be prepared to discuss your achievements in a way that resonates with potential employers, so they want to hire you. Your achievements don’t always have to all be quantifiable with $ or numbers, but they need to be accomplishments that made a difference to your company’s performance and they need to be clearly articulated in your job application. Make a note every time you achieve something you’re proud of or receive some positive feedback – that way, when you go to update your resume or have an upcoming interview, you’ll have the information on hand.

3.  Think About Change – why do you want to change jobs? It’s no point thinking “I don’t like my job, so I’ll get a new one”. Put some thought into the areas that make you unhappy and what you most enjoy doing, then seek out roles and companies that can provide more of the latter.

4.  Keep Learning – are you learning new skills in your current role? If you’re not, you need to work out how you can. We all need to continuously learn to ensure solid future career prospects. If your work environment doesn’t provide that opportunity, then you need to take it upon yourself to enrol in courses, take up volunteer work, or offer to take on more (different) tasks and responsibilities in your current role. Learning new skills can also help you take your career in a different direction if that’s what you’re aiming for.

5.  Research – even if you are not actively seeking a new job, you should regularly search job sites and other avenues to see what’s out there. As a Resume Consultant, I advise people to mould themselves to the jobs they want to achieve, not where they are right now. By understanding where you want to be in the future, you can take action now to achieve that. This could be taking on new responsibilities and tasks as mentioned in TIP number 4, starting some study or completing short courses, or networking outside of your company to foster relevant contacts. By understanding what companies are looking for in the roles you want to achieve, and ensuring you develop those skills and expertise, you will be better placed to achieve results when the time comes.

6. Build Your Network – use LinkedIn and create a high quality professional profile. Connect with people inside and outside of your current company, interact with others, participate in online forums, share information, answer questions, post links, and follow companies you’d like to work with. You need to build your networks and credibility within those networks because research shows that word of mouth and professional networks are fast becoming one of the primary sources of new hires.

Take action today and every day to ensure your career remains firmly within your control, and more importantly that you are perfectly placed to take advantage of any opportunities as they arise.

Would you like help from a Career Advisor to take charge of your career in 2014? If so, please see our Career Coaching Services.

5 Things You Need to do When Job Searching

Article by Belinda Fuller

1.    Establish a plan: today’s job market is not only competitive, it’s also very complicated. There are many avenues you need to tap into – including advertised and unadvertised job markets. You need to be organised and you also need to find and apply for all the positions you may be suitable for. A detailed plan will help you do this. See my previous article Winning Job Search Strategies for detailed tips on developing a structured job search strategy.

2.    Update your LinkedIn Profile: include comprehensive content and make sure you keep it updated. Recruiters are using LinkedIn more and more to search for candidates, so it’s also important to optimise your profile with keywords, so that you can be easily found. Make sure to include a current professional photo, and try to update every section with as much detail as you can. Many people don’t include a summary, and this is a mistake. Use the summary to introduce yourself – give an overview of your key skills, experience and strengths to provide readers with a sense of who you are and the value you could bring to an organisation. Inject some personality into your LinkedIn profile – it doesn’t need to be as formal as your Resume content. Use LinkedIn to research recruitment consultants and HR managers from companies you’d like to target. Join relevant groups, follow companies you’d like to work for, and connect with others in your industry.

3.    Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter: we strongly recommend writing a customised cover letter for every job you apply for making sure to address as many ‘job requirements’ as you can. We also recommend tailoring your Resume to suit each role. This may simply require a reordering of key skills, highlighting a particular achievement, or de-emphasising points that may not be relevant. Review the job ad, or even better the detailed job description, and ensure that if you have the experience or skills they are asking for, it’s well highlighted and easily understood.

4.    Prepare for an Interview: the biggest mistake you can make when searching for a new job is not preparing for the interview. Research the company you are interviewing by reviewing their website and latest news headlines as well as checking their LinkedIn and/or Facebook pages so you know what’s going on in their world right now. Prepare some relevant questions about the company and the role. Ensure you dress appropriately, arrive on time (or a little early), think about the questions they might ask and practice your responses, listen to the interviewer’s questions and answer as succinctly and clearly as possible. See my previous article 5 Things You MUST DO to Prepare for an Interview for more tips.

5.    Network: think about who you know and who you might be able to connect with. Let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. Remember there are many different ways to connect with your network so use them all – phone calls, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, face to face and online networking groups. Seek out relevant professional associations and networking groups – attend seminars and connect with people in your industry.

Remember, today’s job market is highly competitive and complex so you need to be organised and prepared in order to succeed. There are many avenues to pursue, so plan your strategy to make sure no stone is left unturned.

Would you like help from a Career Advisor to develop a winning resume, detailed job search strategy, or update your LinkedIn profile? Perhaps you’d like to get help with your interview preparation. If so, please see our Resume Writing Services, Career Coaching Services and LinkedIn Profile Writing Services. 

How to Build Your Personal Brand

Article by Belinda Fuller

Branding has long been synonymous with large companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Nike, Coca Cola, Amazon and McDonalds – they’re valuable brands whose logos and image are recognised globally. These companies, and others, are all experts at ensuring their prospective customers recognise the value they hold in providing a solution to a problem or in addressing a particular need.

It’s thought that personal branding was first defined when Tom Peters (a leading American writer on business management practices, best known for co-authoring the book titled ‘In Search of Excellence’) wrote an article called “The Brand Called You” in 1997. In this article, he talked about how everyone is a brand with a chance to stand out. Tom Peters is quoted as saying “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Since then, the concept has increased in popularity and in recent years has become even more prominent as the economy has tightened and competition for jobs intensified. A personal brand can be more simply defined as how other people see you – their perspective on what you offer in your field of expertise or what you’re best known for.

Personal branding relies on you having an in depth understanding of your strengths, skills, passions, and values, then using that information to stand out from your competitors. To develop yourself as a brand isn’t easy, especially if you’re not a natural marketer. Start by working out what makes you unique. To build a strong personal brand, you need to get your story straight in terms of what you offer. Think about achievements you have made and the things you do that make you stand out. Do you have any special skills that set you apart? What would your clients, superiors and colleagues think were your key strengths? Put it all together into a comprehensive statement about you – your brand positioning. Then, just like large companies make significant efforts to maintain consistency with their brand messaging across all avenues of communication, you need to do the same.

Here are some tips to help you build your personal brand:

  • Use LinkedIn – create a high quality professional profile and keep it updated. Optimise your content for search engines, change your URL to represent the best combination of your first and last name (search on vanity URL for instructions to do this), get as many recommendations and endorsements as you can to build credibility, join groups, participate in discussions, answer questions, interact with your clients and colleagues, post updates and links that position yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Network – build and maintain contacts inside and outside of your current company so your brand achieves optimum visibility.
  • Start a Blog – it provides a great way to share information as well as initiating two way conversations with your target audience. Write regular, short articles on your area of expertise and promote them through your website and/or social media. Blog articles help people better understand your value – what you’re good at and what you’ve achieved for others and when people like what they read, they usually share it with their own networks.
  • Participate in Online Forums – seek out relevant online forums and participate regularly by answering and posting questions. A great way to find forums that are relevant to you is to do an online search for questions you often get asked in your line of work.
  • Use Social Media Wisely – especially your personal pages – think about your brand every time you post. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing in your Resume or on your personal LinkedIn page.
  • Be Consistent – make sure your written Resume, Cover Letter and any online content is all consistent with your personal brand.
  • Use Twitter – to position yourself as an expert, comment, post, and link to interesting articles or announcements that relate to projects or other aspects of your work, to demonstrate the value your brand offers.
  • Keep Up To Date – stay abreast of the latest news in your field and maintain all your social media sites so they are consistent and up to date with all your achievements and current activities.

In today’s competitive job market, you need to start thinking of yourself as a brand and ensure that brand shines through all your communications – including your Resume, your social media and any other online content.

Would you would like help from a Career Coach to identify your unique value and create a professional Resume or online presence? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services, LinkedIn Profile Writing Services and Career Counselling services.

Do I Really Need Different Content in my LinkedIn Profile

Article by Belinda Fuller

As a LinkedIn profile writer, I am aware that many people don’t understand the value of LinkedIn. They believe a copy and paste of their new resume content will suffice as profile content. Whilst this can be a good place to start, it’s not ideal. We always recommend taking the time to work out what you want out of LinkedIn and then optimising your profile to achieve that.

The goal of your resume is to get you an interview – you’re usually responding to a job that has been advertised and there is context in terms of your suitability for the role, past experience and relevant skills. LinkedIn is a bit different in that you could be discovered by someone as suitable for a role that you weren’t actually looking for.

The important thing to remember about LinkedIn is that recruiters and other senior decision makers regularly use LinkedIn to seek out suitable candidates for positions they need to fill. There are more than 1000 corporate customers in Australia paying to market and advertise to LinkedIn members and using LinkedIn’s Talent Services’ products which include:

  • LinkedIn Recruiter to enable recruiters to search the membership base in a targeted way;
  • LinkedIn Jobs to allow companies to post job ads and automatically target the most relevant candidates using LinkedIn’s matching algorithms and profile data;
  • LinkedIn Careers pages which are created by member companies and tailored to showcase their employer brand and culture and ensure the right audience sees it. In addition, “Work With Us”, lets companies advertise on their employees’ profile pages to reinforce the brand with connections – using space that would otherwise carry a generic advertisement.

Your LinkedIn content should be different to your Resume and customised to maximise the opportunity to market you as a potential employee. Here’s a few tips on what’s different to get you started.

1.     Tone – LinkedIn is a form of social media, so whilst it should always remain professional, you certainly can (and we recommend you do) inject a little more of your personality. The most important area to do that is in the Summary – this is where you can showcase your success, while creating your value and appealing to the recruiter. Make sure it’s warm and conversational – not too formal or stuffy. Depending on your professional background, you may want to inject a strong sense of your personality or not – that’s up to you but make sure you show your value and what makes you stand out as an ideal candidate.

2.     Content – a Resume is a factual, more formal document whereas LinkedIn is more personable and should always be written in the first person. The content is more general since it needs to cater for a broader audience whereas resumes are usually tailored for a specific role or job application.

3.     Ease of Reading – LinkedIn profiles need to be ‘web friendly’ – similar to website content, so short paragraphs and concise bullet points should be used – including the Headline (to separate each job title), Summary and Experience sections.

4.     SEO – LinkedIn is an online tool and as such is subject to search engine optimisation (SEO). For those not in the know, SEO helps search tools ‘find’ you. If you’re using LinkedIn as a tool for people (whether that be employers, customers or recruiters) to find you, your profile should be optimised for search tools. Select the words you think recruiters will be looking for and use them wisely. Using up all the character limits in various sections may also help boost your profile SEO.

5.     Value Add – one of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to share your successes. By adding links in various sections you can draw people’s attention to different areas you’ve worked or successes you’ve had. You could include links to videos, presentations, publications, articles etc. and interact with others to have conversations. Ask questions, answer questions. Use it to engage your network and you will see the value flow.

If you are planning on using LinkedIn as a job search tool, you need to optimise your profile to ensure the best chance of success. Make sure you stand out from other candidates by highlighting your successes and the value you will bring to an organisation. Inject some personality, engage with the community, build your connections, and ensure your profile is keyword dense for SEO.

If you would like assistance from a LinkedIn Profile Writer to help you build a professional, keyword optimised profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.

How to Choose a Job You Love

Article by Belinda Fuller

Finding a job you truly love can be tough. What matters to me in terms of happiness with my work might be completely different to what matters to you, so trying to get a job at the cool company your friend works at might not be a great idea either. You need to find something that suits you – either as a building block for your long term career or as an opportunity you’re going to be comfortable with for now. Considering most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, it pays to make sure your next job is great! Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Don’t wait – the majority of people who move on are happy about their decision. If you’re unhappy in your job, make the decision to do something about it and then take action to make it happen. Don’t let your dissatisfaction with your work environment erode the enthusiasm and confidence that you’ll need to find a new one.

2. Focus on what you like rather than focusing on the negatives and the things you dislike about your current job. The goal here is that you want to be happy in your work right? That means avoiding what you don’t like doing will help to a point, BUT you need to be doing more of what you love! Think about the things you like doing and take notice of what you are naturally good at – try to think broadly here and don’t limit your options.

3. Don’t let lack of skills or experience hold you back – you may think you don’t have the right skills or experience to secure your dream job. If you’re looking to change careers altogether, there may be some investment in training and/or education required to make it happen. Don’t be daunted by this task. Break it down into manageable steps and if it means you’ll be happy in your work longer term, it’s worth it. Also, most people have a raft of transferable skills that they underestimate. Consider seeing a Career Counsellor to get an independent perspective. Career Counsellors are trained professionals who can help you find your passion and achieve your full potential in your career. They often use formal assessment tools to better understand where your interests, values and personality traits lie in order to identify the careers, industries and work environment that best suit you. Many people are amazed at the areas uncovered during these sessions.

4. Be realistic about time frames – finding a new job does take time and may take longer than you expect. The perfect job needs to be a two way fit, so having unrealistic expectations in terms of the time it’s going to take can get you down. Give yourself some time to achieve your goal and try to focus on the bigger picture while getting there.

5. Avoid basing decisions on salary and perks – this is difficult I know. Many people base their decisions on salary and/or perks of the job and wouldn’t dream of moving to a new job without a raise. I truly believe this is a mistake. Of course we all need money to live and most of us work to live, not the other way around, however there is a point at which we should say enough is enough. If you work in a highly paid job that you are truly unhappy in, it will take a toll on your health and general wellbeing. What is the point of that in the longer term? Feeling stressed and burnt out on a day to day basis will limit your chances of moving ahead anyway, so working out how much money you really need to live on might help you take a job with less stress and hours and more job satisfaction in the longer term.

If you’ve already lost your job, you may be feeling anxious about securing your next position and feel like you’re not in a position to wait for the perfect job. The period following a redundancy can be stressful, however it can also be a good time to take stock, re-evaluate your career options and look at new avenues to pursue. Start your job search quickly and try to allow yourself some time to achieve the perfect role, rather than becoming desperate and needing to take the first thing that comes along. Read my previous article about Surviving Redundancy for more tips.

Remember, finding the perfect job takes time and effort, you may need to develop some new skills, take some courses or enrol in more formal education along the way. If you’re in a stable job, you don’t have to leave until you’ve secured your next role – but don’t let the bad job you’re in bring you down emotionally to a point where you can’t secure your next role. There are many paths to different careers and jobs and you may benefit by talking to a professional.

If you would like help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options for a new job or if you’d like to better understand the career options that best suit your interests, values and personality, please see our Career Guidance and Career Coaching services.

How to Get Shortlisted For More Jobs

Article by Belinda Fuller

It takes just 20-30 seconds for an experienced recruiter to read a resume – OK, not read exactly – but scan in enough detail to make a decision on whether or not to read further. In a crowded job market, recruiters notice ‘stand-out’ applications. This means it must be easy to read and contain information that identifies you as an ideal candidate! Here’s some tips to secure a place on that all important shortlist:

  • Make it Relevant – highlight relevant work experience and success. If you’ve worked in a completely different role for the past five years, but have highly relevant experience prior to that – call it ‘relevant’ experience and put it up front. If your resume doesn’t immediately and clearly establish your relevant experience and highlight what you’ve achieved for your employer, it may be ignored.
  • Address the Must Haves – many recruiters discard applications that don’t meet their list of ‘must haves’. Read the job ad and/or position description carefully and figure out what these might be. Ensure all the requirements you meet are addressed – so the recruiter sees how your experience/skills match the ‘must haves’ for this role.
  • Don’t Leave Questions Unanswered – if a recruiter has too many questions, your application may get overlooked. Fill gaps in your history – if you took time off to study or travel – say so. If you worked for a small company that isn’t well known – explain what they do. Don’t just include the years as start and finish dates – e.g. if you write 2011-2012 you could have worked there for two months or two years – be more specific. If you’re currently studying – state when you expect to graduate.
  • Cover Letter – include a personal cover letter addressing the core requirements of the position. Highlight why you’re an ideal candidate early in the letter and make the recruiter want to read your resume in more detail.
  • Be Realistic – If you’re applying for a senior manager’s role, leading a large team of managers and you’ve never even led a team – your application may be ignored. There can be exceptions to this, but if you need a certain level of experience or qualification that you just don’t have – recognise you might be aiming too high.
  • Make it Easy to Read – use bullet points, sections, headings, achievements and white space to make your application appealing. Don’t be tempted to make it too fancy – clear and concise language, no jargon, and a simple but contemporary format is the way to go.
  • Proofread Your Application – and get someone else to do so as well – correct any spelling and grammatical errors, fix poor formatting, shorten parts that ramble. Ensure your application is cohesive, clear, concise and accurate – and conveys why you’re an ideal fit for the role.

Remember, it takes many recruiters just 20-30 seconds to decide whether to read your application in more detail, so give them every reason to do so. Make your application stand out by highlighting your relevant skills and experience and providing a taste of the benefits you’ve achieved for previous employers.

If you would like assistance from a professional resume writer with putting together an application that helps get you shortlisted for more jobs, please see our CV and Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria writing services.

Winning Job Search Strategies

Article by Belinda Fuller

To succeed in today’s competitive job market, you need to tap into both the advertised and unadvertised job markets. You need a comprehensive strategy that helps you find and connect with recruiters and employers, combined with a tailored, targeted approach that makes you stand out from other candidates. It’s particularly important to build your online presence, protect your personal brand, network with others, and market yourself effectively. If you’re not achieving interviews, you might need to rethink your approach and develop a comprehensive job search strategy….

Identify Job Search Websites: in addition to SEEK, MyCareer and CareerOne, there are other niche job search websites. Do a Google search to identify relevant recruitment agencies, professional associations, university career websites, niche job search websites, industry journals, and the LinkedIn Job Directory. Sign up for automated alerts if the option is available and create a dedicated favourites folder for reference.

Identify Recruiters: perform a search for your particular role on popular job search sites and identify common recruiters. Add the sites to your favourites folder and make a note of the consultants.

Evaluate Your Resume: how many applications have you sent off and how many interviews have you secured? If it’s not many, what might be the problem? Perhaps you need to revamp your Resume and/or application process. Think about asking someone in your industry to review it and provide feedback, or consider getting a professional involved.

Use LinkedIn: recruiters review LinkedIn Profiles and you can easily be found, so make sure it’s up to date with relevant information and keywords, as well as a current, professional photo. Add in as much detail as you can including additional sections such as qualifications, certifications, courses, memberships, interests etc. It provides a more comprehensive view of you, as well as additional opportunities to connect with others. Use LinkedIn to research recruitment consultants and HR managers from companies you’d like to target. Join relevant groups, follow companies you’d like to work for, and connect with others in your industry.

Customise Each Application: write a customised cover letter for every job you apply for making sure to address as many ‘job requirements’ as you can.

Build Your Online Presence: there are many ways to do this including LinkedIn (discussed above); writing a blog; developing your own website; creating a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Youtube videos. This is especially important if you are looking for contract/freelance work.

Check Your Settings: some employers look up candidate’s social media pages as part of their screening process, so make sure your privacy settings for social media sites are set to an appropriate level and ensure personal photos, timelines, tweets etc. are not generally visible.

Access the Hidden Job Market: a large percentage of available jobs are never advertised so this is an important part of your job search strategy. Connect with some of the recruiters you identified via LinkedIn. Develop a standard pitch as to why you want to connect and what you can offer. Think about specific companies you’d like to work for then research their website careers page and follow them on social media. Network with others in your industry, join suitable LinkedIn Groups and make active contributions to help build your profile.

Network: think about who you know and who you might be able to connect with. Let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. Remember there are many different ways to connect with your network so use them all – phone calls, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, face to face and online networking groups etc. Find relevant professional associations and networking groups – attend seminars and connect with people in your industry.

Stay In Touch: once you’ve identified relevant job sites, recruiters, companies, etc. it is important to regularly follow up.

A customised job search strategy is your blueprint for success. Remember, there are many aspects to securing your next opportunity and if you’re finding it tough at the moment – you’re not alone. That doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve success – you just need to take some time to develop a winning job search strategy.

If you would like help from a Career Coach to develop a Job Search Strategy tailored to your target role/industry, please see our Job Search Coaching services.

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