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Career-Life Times, Issue #11 -- Standing Out From the Crowd
December 12, 2004
Welcome to the latest issue of CAREER-LIFE TIMES! I hope you find this little publication to be informative, useful and entertaining!
If you don't like it, there's an unsubscribe link at the end. And if you have any ideas on how I can improve it, please let me know -- I greatly value your suggestions! My email address is also at the end.
* Standing Out From the Crowd
The following is a guest article by my friend, Rachel Goldthwaite. If you visit the Monster.com discussion forums, you've seen many of her posts offering valuable advice to jobseekers under the nickname of "rgold."
Standing out from the other job seekers must begin with your resume, cover letter and the tactics you use. The better job seekers have two-to-five resumes that they selectively send to employers, depending on the type of job they are applying for. Instead of only having one resume, as the average job seeker does, I strongly encourage you to have a base resume for each type of position you apply to. The way to stand out is to make slight changes to both the cover letter and resume to target each job you apply for.
Changes made are mostly wording, however it might include adding truthful information about you that is not typically needed for some jobs, or removing items that are not needed for other jobs.
Getting to this point requires research on the company, its goals and philosophies, and then determining how you can help the company maintain and exceed those goals.
1. Take your generic resume for the type of position you are interested in applying for and compare it to the job ad or description.
2. Ask yourself the following questions:
The biggest decisions are those made at the start of your job search, as it then becomes an upward or downward spiral. If you are struggling to match your skills and qualifications to the job ad, then perhaps you need to examine your process of finding a position that is right for you.
Failure to do so, even if you somehow land the job, can result in starting over again in a year or less.
Being confident with matching your cover letter and resume to the position and company will bring the much-needed confidence when you are granted the interview!
If you've been reading this newsletter for a while or have visited my website, you know that I'm always preaching about proper preparation prior to interviews. If you research the position and company carefully, you can anticipate likely questions and prepare excellent answers. But something I also tell job seekers is that you can never anticipate every single question.
I once had to respond to a problem-solving question about exhuming a dead duck. I am not making this up. The position involved community affairs work for a sewer treatment plant. How could I have anticipated such a strange question? It took me totally by surprise. But I got the job.
Often with problem-solving questions, the interviewer isn't looking for a "right" or "wrong" answer.
He or she is more interested in the thought processes you demonstrate to come up with your answer.
The dead-duck question was based on an actual incident, and the person who asked it is the person who had to deal with it. My response showed that I would have handled the situation differently than she had, but it also showed that I knew about problem solving in general. I didn't panic at the unexpected question; I didn't answer before thinking about it for a few seconds; and I didn't blow it by giving a lame response like, "Gosh, that's a really tough question! I don't know what I would do in that situation."
Here are a few tips to help you deal with problem-solving questions:
1. Ask questions to determine exactly what the interviewer is looking for. (This will also give you a bit more time to think.)
2. Explain how you would gather the information and data necessary to develop a solution to the problem.
3. Tell how you’d use the information you gathered to develop and analyze alternative courses of action.
4. And finally, tell them your solution or recommendation, explaining how you feel it's the best option based on the info you were given.
Problem-solving questions are popular in interviews these days. You must not let them scare you. Don't rush your response and don't stress yourself out wondering what answer they're looking for. Remember, the answer itself isn't as important as showing your ability to think logically and demonstrate problem-solving capabilities.
Can you get your work done without supervision? If so, congratulations... you are a rare gem of an employee.
Despite the common complaint about bosses being micromanagers, studies show that most employees need strong supervision to do their jobs. Only about 20% are dependable enough to do their work properly and on time without a boss watching over them.
You've probably worked with people yourself who, for one reason or another, are not dependable.
It can be especially frustrating if you need their assistance to do your job... and they fail to deliver.
Every organization has people who are known to be... I don't want to say incompetent or lazy... let's say "motivationally challenged." Some people are fully aware of this characteristic -- they choose to do the absolute minimum to keep from being disciplined or fired. Other people simply are not competent or organized enough to achieve the desired results on their own.
Whatever the reason, you do not want to have that kind of reputation.
To stand out and get ahead, you want the opposite reputation. You want to be known as the person who gets things done, on time, every time; who is reliable and dependable; who exercises initiative and doesn't have to be told what to do. In other words, the person who takes responsibility, overcomes challenges, and solves problems.
Are you that person? If you are, others will know it and think of you when important challenges--and rewarding opportunities--arise. If you're not that person, others will know that, too. You can become that person. Or you can sit on the sidelines and watch as people who get things done pass you by and get ahead.
Last week at work, among the memos, work assignments, and junk mail I received one day, I was surprised to find a non-letter-sized envelope with my name written on it. I opened it before anything else, and found a very nice thank-you card.
Inside was written, "I really enjoyed reading your article about our mechanical maintenance team. Thanks for doing such an excellent job!" It was signed by the Director of Operations. He's not my boss, and I rarely see or deal with him. But by sending me this card, which probably took him less than a minute to write and stick in his "Out" box, he made my day.
Several studies show that employees rank "recognition" or "appreciation" as their number-one desire on the job; they consistently rank these higher than "more money."
If you've ever received unexpected praise, you know how great it makes you feel. It can lift your spirits faster than just about anything else.
It's simple to send a thank-you note to a coworker, subordinate, or even a boss... but how often do you do it? Make a New Year's Resolution to do it more often. You'll make others feel great, and they'll think of you as someone who truly cares about others. This is often lacking in today's cut-throat corporate world.
By the way, when I received that thank-you card, I immediately responded by emailing the writer a "thank you for the thanks" message. I told him how receiving his card made my day. This did two things. First, it let him know I received and appreciated his card, which I suspect made him feel good. Second, it made me feel good. Thanking people benefits both the thanker and the thankee (OK, I know that's not a real word, but you know what I mean). Try it!
The Loser is always part of the problem.
The Winner always has a program.
The Loser always has an excuse.
The Winner says, 'Let me do it for you.'
The Loser says, 'That's not my job.'
The Winner sees an answer for every problem.
The Loser sees a problem for every answer.
The Winner sees a green near every sand trap
The Loser sees two or three sand traps near every green.
The Winner says, 'It may be difficult but it's possible.'
The Loser says, 'It might be possible but it's too difficult.'
Be a Winner."
Holiday Party Memos
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!
* * *
In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year.
However, from now on, we're calling it our "Holiday Party".
* * *
What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating, drinking and sex during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party...the days are so short this time of year...or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans.
* * *
So December 22 marks the Winter Solstice... Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit the burning of sage by our earth-based, Goddess-worshipping employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band's breaks.
* * *
People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan", there is no evil connotation to our own "little man in a red suit". It's a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine's Day. Could we lighten up?
* * *
Vegetarians!?!?!? I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table farthest from the "grill of death", as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your #$%^&*! salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes...but you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them...I've heard them scream, I'm hearing them scream right now...!
* * *
I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel the Holiday party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.
Year-End Reflections. Well, another year is drawing to a close. It seems the older I get, the faster time flies. I wish things would slow down. I need more time to feel guilty about all the things I'm not getting done because I don't have enough time. I know, the real problem isn't with the amount of time, it's how I've used and abused it.
I read a quote recently that I can't remember exactly (I should've copied it down), but it said something like, "Value what you did today, for you've given a day of your life in exchange." Perhaps we should all ask ourselves as we end each day, "Was what I did today worth trading a day of my life for?" If it wasn't, perhaps that will inspire us to do better tomorrow.
I hope 2004 was a good year for you, and that 2005 will be much better!
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