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TES – The Employment Solution

Move it, move it!

The skies are gray and the weather is damp and cold; you go out in the dark and go home in the dark. You’re sick and tired of boots and gloves. You’d love to spend the winter somewhere tropical (or at least curl up and hibernate for some of it), but there’s bills to pay, so here you are at work. Which is bad enough, but now there’s a killer stalking you at your desk.

“Sitting disease”

Studies are beginning to show that even people who work out regularly can have the health benefits of their exercise cancelled out by working at sedentary jobs where they sit most of the time. Start with an 8-hour-a-day desk job, add in commuting time in a car or on a bus or subway, top it off with some TV or computer time at the end of the day and you have a LOT of time spent on your duff, with your muscles slack. It’s bad for your back, it’s bad for your metabolism, and it puts you at higher risk of life-shortening problems like heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Some experts have even compared it to smoking, in terms of the damage it can do to your health and life expectancy.

The Dangerous Life of the Knowledge Worker

The hazards of working as a firefighter or a construction worker are well known, but few people realize that the long-term effects of a sitting job can hurt you just as much. And even when people do realize, it’s still hard to push back. It’s not like you can do jumping jacks while designing an electrical storage facility, or debugging code. The need for constant boosts to your focus and alertness can make caffeine and sugar your essential pick-me-ups. And by the end of the day, the combination of stress and confinement can leave you exhausted — who can face exercise at that point?

The Cure: Motion Mini-Breaks

The same science that identified the problem has also identified the fix. It’s deceptively simple and surprisingly easy. Find as many ways as possible to work short movement breaks into your day. Jump off the bus two stops early and walk the rest of the way to work. Park in the farthest area of the lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Clear your head with a walk around the building instead of a trip to the coffee room. Walk to a colleague’s desk to talk rather than telephoning them. Move your trash bin to the far side of your cubicle so that you need to stand up to throw something out. Break up your sitting time as much as possible with short spurts of motion. It adds up. If your workplace permits, consider sitting on a yoga ball; it requires you to constantly move your core muscles (wonderful for the back) and you can fidget to your heart’s content while you work.

Take a Stand

Anything that gets you out of a sitting position helps. Even just standing can fire up the muscles and boost circulation. Stand up when you’re on the phone. Stand up for one-on-one meetings if possible (some can even be done while you walk together). Stand up on the bus on your way to work and your leg muscles will get an extra challenge as you keep your balance and stay upright through turns, starts and stops. Some workplaces even have height-adjustable desks so that employees can opt to stand while reading emails or documents.

Team Up for Success

If you’re the type who craves the quiet of a solo lunchtime walk, then go enjoy yourself. But if a drizzly day or a busy schedule will make you back out of your walking plans, then maybe you need a “walk buddy” – or even a “walk group”. Ask around. You’ll probably find others who are interested in better health, and it’s harder to slack off when you know that everyone else is expecting you at the front door at 12:15. And it can be a wonderful opportunity to network, problem-solve, or just blow off steam.

Little Things Add Up

Just as studies have shown that a sedentary job causes unhealthy changes in your various metabolic markers (blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin sensitivity, etc.), the combined effect of many small movement breaks can reverse those changes. And the dividends don’t stop there. You’ll find you need less of that midafternoon caffeine and sugar when you use short bursts of physical activity as your pick-me-up. You’ll have more energy at the end of the day. Which is good, because you may need it to go shopping… for new clothes because the old ones have become too big!

Posted in Career

Please, May I Have Some More?

Lots of people ask for a raise when they’re working on contract. Very few of them do it well. Many even end up earning less money in the long run, by making wage-negotiation mistakes that damage relationships with both the client and the recruiter. Read on for the do’s and don’ts of asking for more money.

Have the discussion with your recruiter/agent

Even though the client interviewed and chose you, and the client directs your daily activities, the recruiter is your official go-between. If you try to cut them out of the discussion, you lose an important ally. The recruiter knows this client, knows how much they generally pay for each role, and knows what factors have caused them to agree to higher rates. The recruiter can also feel out how you stand with the client – have they been impressed by your work? Are they considering longer-term plans for you? Both legally and strategically, the recruiter is your contact for money chat.

Don’t ask too early in the contract

Many contract workers make this mistake. If the client has hired a contract worker (you) at a specific rate per hour, then all the project/departmental budgeting has been built around that number. It’s extremely difficult – often impossible – to get that number changed mid-project. It also won’t make you any friends; your supervisor has better (and far more productive) things to do than stop work to go ask upper management for more money because the contract worker who signed a contract for a certain hourly rate has suddenly changed their mind and wants more.

The exception to the rule – if your responsibilities or role change

Unexpected things happen. Perhaps another team member resigned or became sick, or the scope of the project changed. You signed on for one role, but now you find that you’re doing far more than that. In that case, it’s not out of line to ask for your increased responsibilities to be recognized with a matching increase in compensation.

The best time – when your contract is up for renewal

This is usually when there’s the most room for change. By this point, both the client and your recruiter have had a chance to see how valuable you can be. They’re preparing for a new phase in the contract relationship. Make sure you arm your recruiter with a detailed description of why your contribution is worth more money than before. And give them some notice. Nobody can do their best for you when you’ve blindsided them at the last minute.

Add value in multiple areas

Clients are more willing to pay a bit more for one-of-a-kind skill sets that can make a real difference to their bottom line. If you can wear more than one “hat”, and save the client expenditure in other areas, it’s easier to justify a higher hourly rate for you. For instance, if you are a technical writer who also has significant QA/testing experience, or if you are a software architect with project management training, then you add real, measurable, dollars-and-cents value to the project. Consider how you can upgrade your training to turn yourself into a unique contributor who’s worth a little more to keep around.

Check the average hourly rates for your qualifications and role

A trip to any major jobhunting portal, or professional association website, will supply you with some basic numbers. Be aware that there is tremendous variation between geographic areas, and over time. A sudden mass layoff in your industry can put hundreds of qualified people into your job market; causing pay rates to sag. If several competing companies are carrying out similar projects at the same time, certain skill sets can suddenly get a lot scarcer, and more valuable. Make sure your information is local, and recent.

Find out what your colleagues are making (if you can), but don’t whine

If you can find out discreetly what other contractors with similar qualifications and similar roles in your organization are making, that’s valuable information. But if you find you’re on the lower end of the pay range, be careful how you present that information. “Calm and informed” helps your case a lot more than “complaining and accusatory”.

Don’t play hardball too quickly

Threatening to walk out if your demands aren’t met will occasionally work, as a short-term tactic. It never creates long-term success. You’ve signaled to the client that you are willing to hold the project hostage to get what you want. They’re likely to find a way to replace you as soon as possible, to prevent it from happening again. You’ve also just sabotaged your potential relationships with future clients. Your recruiter will not want to risk their long-term customer relationships by putting you forward for jobs.

Be prepared to accept other things if extra money is not available

The client may not be able to come up with more money for you – but they may be able to recognize your value in other ways. They might be able to offer you access to specialized training, or flex hours, or a work-at-home option, or a chance to be part of a desirable project. All these things can make a difference to your quality of life and/or your long-term earning potential. Don’t hesitate to propose a non-monetary raise if your goals can be met that way.

The right approach to rate negotiations doesn’t guarantee you’ll get what you want – but it will ensure that you don’t hurt your chances while you’re trying to improve them.

Posted in Career

Leveraging LinkedIn

There are whole books and blogs devoted to making LinkedIn work for you. I’ll suggest right off the bat that you go out and pick up/follow a few, because it’s impossible to cover all the possibilities in one article. However, keep reading for a few of my favourite hints and tips here.

If you’re thinking of creating a profile, or updating the profile you created in half an hour some months ago and haven’t touched since, start by scanning through the profiles of people who work in similar industries and similar roles to yours. Which profiles really caught your eye and made a strong positive impression? Which ones were ho-hum, and disappeared from your radar as soon as you clicked to the next? Did you see any wording you liked? Any fresh, engaging approaches? This research will help you know which presentation tactics to try out for yourself, and which to avoid.

Don’t fall into the convenience trap of the Resume Import feature. It sounds like a fast, logical way to get your information up there, but your LinkedIn profile is NOT just an online version of your resume. Yes, they have a lot in common, but letting your job experience be the dominant part of your LinkedIn profile does not match the way recruiters and employers use this tool. They are looking for a strong first impression, a sense of you, and what problem of theirs they will solve by bringing you and your talents on-board. This is where your “personal brand” comes in. Are you the diplomat who can navigate even the trickiest client relationships and create lasting customer satisfaction? Are you the spreadsheet wizard who can streamline the most complex project for maximum profitability? That’s the impression you want them to go away with. Design your profile to communicate it quickly and right away. Go ahead and use the Resume Import Tool to save you the typing time, but get right in there and modify from that point, so that your job descriptions take back seat to who YOU are.

Your summary is your first best chance to make a lasting impression. Make your summary punchy, vivid and memorable. Avoid overused (and hence meaningless) buzzwords. Lead with your best talents; talk about what you BRING to the projects, not about what you WANT.

Your current job title appears automatically under your name, but you don’t have to leave it that way. Many job descriptions don’t really match what you do, or what you do best. You may want a different job next time than the one you have now. Go ahead and change it to describe your skill set more clearly.

Check out the LinkedIn applications as a way to give interest to your profile, but as with anything else, don’t overdo, for risk of cluttering your message.

Use the new Volunteer Experiences and Causes feature to highlight your unpaid work experience, give extra dimension to your image, and show your passion and commitment beyond the workplace.

Recommendations add a lot of colour to your profile; get recommendations by giving recommendations. Model the kind of recommendations you would like to receive by giving praise that focuses on coworkers’ soft skills, and by mentioning excellence on a particular project or in a particularly challenging situation if possible. What you get back will probably highlight some characteristics or skills that you didn’t think to mention. Seek out recommendations from people who have been your supervisors, your coworkers, and (where possible) your subordinates. Note that recommendations are a wonderful back-door way to demonstrate your writing skills! Make them vivid, readable and engaging.

Join LinkedIn groups pertaining to your industry and/or your skill area, and participate meaningfully. If you establish a presence as someone who asks interesting questions or has expertise to share, then people (and potential employers) will be more likely to check out your personal page to learn more about you. Recruiters often monitor these groups for subject matter experts and articulate “thought leaders”.

Add a blog link only if your blog is regularly updated, and directly pertinent to your work — or if you are a subject-matter expert in an area that demonstrates your abilities with analysis and communication, and makes you more memorable in a positive way. If it’s family news and photos of your vacation, employers don’t care and don’t want to know.

Consider listing the books you read and/or recommend under the Amazon book list feature, to show that you are constantly learning, and to give some insight into your philosophy of work.

Update your status regularly – but not so regularly that it looks like you have nothing better to do than issue repetitive status updates! Work for a frequency that makes you seem active and present.

Many job-hunting advisors tell you to link with people who work at companies you have targeted for employment. I consider this a bad strategy. If you succeed in making the connection, but your primary interest is in how your connection can get you what you want, you’ll leave a trail of angry and turned-off people. No-one likes to feel used. Invest as much time in giving to your network as you do in “getting”.

And finally, perfect spelling and grammar are just as crucial here as they are in your resume. Proof your profile carefully, or have a spelling-savvy friend do it for you. If you’re standing in front of a world full of potential employers with sloppy errors on your public page, how likely will they be to put their business into your hands?

We’ve barely scratched the surface of what LinkedIn can do for your career. But as the saying goes, “90% of success is just showing up”. Make sure that you have, at least, shown up in the venue used by thousands of employers and recruiters, and that you’ve taken the trouble to stand out from the crowd. It makes more of a difference than you think.

Posted in Job Hunting

The Invisible Dealbreaker

You had the skills. Why didn’t you get the job? The job description read like it was written for you. You know you’re good at what you do. So why did they choose someone else?

There’s a lot of possible reasons why. For one, they may have longer-term plans for that role that involve skillsets that weren’t on the job description. For another, they may simply have been faced with a half-dozen candidates who all had the qualifications. But I have seen a lot of job searches dead-end because candidates either lack “soft skills”, or the ability to communicate them in an interview.

What are soft skills? There are hundreds, and every job requires a different set of them. But the core soft skills for most IT roles include:

  • Written communication ability (can you write clearly, and come across as positive, friendly and open?)
  • Spoken communication ability (similar to above – can you get your message across and keep the tone positive and approachable?)
  • Team skills (can you collaborate closely with others, take direction when needed, and take the lead when asked?)
  • Professionalism (do you have a good work ethic, are you committed to quality work, do you refuse to allow other factors to stop you from giving good performance?)
  • Enthusiasm (do you project a can-do attitude?)
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creativity
  • Time management (are you an organized self-starter with lots of initiative, or will you require a lot of hand-holding and moment-to-moment management?)
  • Flexible thinking (do you learn quickly, and adapt well to unexpected and new situations?)
  • Ability to take criticism and redirection (do you avoid blaming others, and do you have a realistic sense of your own strengths and weaknesses?)

Consider, for a moment, the soft skills that make a good police officer, a good sports coach, a good building contractor. And think about the soft skills that are common in your work environment. Which bosses and teammates have you enjoyed working with the most? Odds are that they are not necessarily the ones with the really superstar technical skills, but the ones with the best soft skills.

There’s more to this dynamic than just enjoying a working relationship. An employee with good soft skills is an asset in a measurable dollars-and-cents way to their employer. When you have someone who communicates clearly, takes responsibility, gets along well with others, and can deal with the unexpected, you spend less time resolving conflicts and micromanaging. You have a “wild card” employee who can be deployed into a variety of teams and challenges.

So how do you come across as someone who has the potential to be one of those assets?

First, take a hard look at yourself and your performance in various environments in the past. Where do you do your best? When did you do not so well? Are there any common factors in the not-so-well situations? Are there any weak areas in your own “soft skill” set that you could work on?

If you were originally trained in another culture or another industry/career area, are there any habits from the old environment that have been particularly useful in your IT placements? I have known employees who drew on their past experience in retail sales, bartending and even firefighting to become more effective IT specialists. On the flip side of that coin, I have seen communication patterns that worked well in the old environment cause friction in the new one. Take the time to do a little analysis on your best and not-so-good moments.

Second, look over the list of skills above. For each one, think of a specific situation where you showed that ability. Practice telling the story to a couple of friends so that you can communicate it quickly and clearly, but with enough detail to make it interesting and “real”.

Identify the soft skills you think of as your best. Don’t wait in an interview to be asked whether you are good at conflict resolution, or time management, or whatever you are best at. Explain what your stand-out abilities are, and (even more important) how they will offer a significant advantage to your employer. For example:

  • Your high organization and time management skills make you good at “scoping out” projects and making sure they always come in on time
  • You are a quick learner, so you are able to “hit the ground running” and become productive on a job right away
  • Your tact and ability to resolve conflict makes you a good person for roles that involve keeping customers happy

Finally, always be on the lookout for ways to improve your soft skills as well as your technical skills. Check out courses and books and articles. Watch and listen to your co-workers and figure out what makes them good (or bad!) at certain interpersonal skills. Almost everyone, whether they are your boss, or the person who prepares your take-out sandwich, or the contractor who worked on your home, has something to teach you.

Posted in Job Hunting

Using Social Media in your Job Search

Entire books have been written about this very topic. What we’ll offer you here is an introduction to the basics – watch future entries for more detail on leveraging the major social networking tools available for the aspiring job hunter.

Don’t wait until you actually want a new job
I worked with an exec who used to say, “Always keep your resume and your letter of resignation in your briefcase at all times.” It sounds a little odd, but there’s a lot of virtue to the idea. You don’t know when opportunity will knock, and you don’t want to be invisible when someone is looking for the perfect person to fill your dream job. So take your updated resume (you DID update your resume after our earlier advice on the subject?) and use it to get your presence established. When the time comes that you are jobhunting in a more focused way, you can refine what’s already there to match your specific goals.

Create a single consistent profile
Employers who encounter your online presence in different locations should get a single, strong sense of who you are. Have a good, clear avatar photo (preferably a head shot) and a simple message about your value proposition to a company that hires you. What are your talents, skill sets and areas of interest? What do they get with you that they won’t get from anyone else?

Choose your keywords
For tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and various job search/resume databases, make sure that your profile will come up when potential opportunities come knocking. Watch the postings for the jobs that interest you, pick out the important skill set or qualification words, and make sure that those words appear in your profile/resume.

Check your footprints
Look back over the places on the web where you have posted comments, entered into discussions, signed guestbooks and otherwise left traces of your presence. Did you use a single distinctive user name over and over? Is there any chance that an employer will find one of these instances and use it to find the others? Did you express any opinions or use any language that might create problems for you? Erase those connections wherever possible, since they can distract from the profile you are trying to create. This is particularly important if you have an unusually-spelled, easily-searchable name. Also take note if there are high-profile users with similar names to yours – you want to be aware, going into an interview, that an employer may have incorrect information about your activities.

Facebook (facebook.com)
Facebook can be a powerful tool for the job search, particularly for consultants and contract/freelance personnel who need to stay continuously alert to new opportunities. In that case, you’ll need to become familiar with the features which allow you to separate your Friends into various groups, and choose which items to share with which groups. Overall, avoid posting complaints about your current job or photos and comments about your party lifestyle or any chronic health problems. If you’re hoping that friends can connect you with job opportunities, you want them to feel safe about recommending you to their employers and contacts.

Facebook has several job-search applications which link to other tools like Monster and LinkedIn. Check out BeKnown, IngBoo, CareerBuilder for Facebook and BranchOut for ways to link together the various elements in your online profile.

If you do not choose to have your Facebook profile as part of your job search, make sure that your privacy options are on the tightest possible settings, to keep that part of your life as invisible as possible.

LinkedIn (linkedin.com)
A good LinkedIn profile can be an excellent route to job opportunities. Go for quality, not quantity, when connecting with others; stick to people who know you and your work well, or who already work in your target industry/company. Make sure your profile is complete and up-to-date, and generate recommendations for yourself by offering them to others. Join alumni groups for your schools and past employers. Choose a few subject discussion groups in areas where you have particular expertise, and contribute to the discussion. Recruiters and HR specialists often watch these areas, and contact desirable-looking candidates to offer opportunities, or to gain feedback on who in the community they might recommend.

Twitter (twitter.com)
Use Twitter with caution. While it’s good to get the word out that you’re hunting for a job, your contacts will turn off or tune out quickly if you bombard them with things they don’t care about. Keep your Tweets upbeat, and offer valuable information as often as you request it.

Where Twitter can really work for you is in who YOU follow. Don’t spend much time on the official feeds of companies you are interested in; unless they are recruiting firms, the information available through these channels will be too general, and more about marketing their interests than meeting yours. Instead, seek out people in the company who might offer more specifically useful information about trends in the industry and potential opportunities. Recruiters and HR workers have grabbed hold of Twitter as a powerful tool for getting the word out on opportunities; follow as many of these feeds as you can, but organize them into lists/industry areas to make sure that you don’t drown in the data stream.

If you think we’ve really only dipped our toe into the potential possibilities of social media for the job hunt, you’d be absolutely right. There’s hundreds of articles and resources to help you create your profile and really leverage the power of any of these (and several other) tools. But for many of you, we hope we got you thinking about the next steps you need, to take control of your online professional presence and make it work for you. In future, we’ll get into more nitty-gritty details for each of these, plus some other, online career development tools.

Posted in Job Hunting

Work from Home – Is it for you?

It’s not surprising that we hear a lot of interest in working from home at this time of year. Many of you spent some relaxing hours this summer at the cottage or resort, or just in a lawn chair in your own back yard. Your cubicle at the office seemed a million miles away and you wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. Add to that the spectre of winter commuting – only a cold, slushy line on the distant horizon right now, but coming faster than you think – and Not Going Back starts to sound very appealing.

The problem with that scenario is the need to continue earning a paycheck. But for some of our contract personnel (and even some of those we place as permanent employees), telework is a viable, and practical, work option. That deck chair overlooking the water is where they take their coffee breaks.

But how to get from office-base to home-base? Consider some of the following factors. And if you — and your employer — fit the profile for telework, consider making your move.

Is your job homebase-compatible?
Some jobs (editor, web designer) are very obviously a good match for homebasing. Others (cashier, surgeon) very obviously are not. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Assess your role in detail. How much of your essential communication with your co-workers is done via meetings and emails, and how much is done via informal information exchange through the day? What will you miss out on if you’re not physically present? Many homebasers find that “out of sight, out of mind” applies to them as well. Will your ability to do your job suffer if you’re not visible at all times?

Does your employer/client have a homebase-compatible working culture?
Some employers simply do not permit teleworking, for a variety of reasons. Others encourage it, because it cuts expenses if workers do not require regular desks in the office. Some… are in the middle. Check around to see if your company has an official telework policy, and what departments actually have people working at home. Do they prefer part-time telework over full-time? Do they have requirements for an “everybody here” day of the week? How do they make sure that all team members are up to date and in sync with each other?

Is the technology base available to support homebasing?
Does your employer permit company data to be taken off-premises, and/or accessed via remote connection? If your job requires regular team meetings, are they held in a location with good-quality speakerphones to allow you to dial in? Is your home Internet connection up for the kind of speed/data volumes you will need to do your work? How about your home computer, and your in-house virus protection and security? Does your workplace IT team support homebasers too, or will you be on your own if you run into a problem?

Are YOU a good candidate for homebase?
Time to take an honest look at yourself. Without the workplace environment and coworkers/supervisors all around you, can you stay focused and productive? Are you a self-starter? Are you willing to put more effort into staying in touch with the rest of your team, if you won’t be seeing them daily? Will you be just as available to phone calls and emails as you would be at work? Will you feel too isolated spending your day on your own?

Can you make a case for homebasing?
Time to see if you can trade in your commute, even for just one or two days a week. Approach your supervisor with a plan for how homebasing could work for you. Describe how you propose to be just as available, just as connected, just as productive as you would be at the office. Suggest a trial period to experiment with the model. Consider proposing only part-time work-at-home, with a commitment to meet and evaluate after one or two months. If your work requires you to interact with people across multiple time zones, point out that telework allows you to space out your work day and be available in separated “chunks” of time for better time zone coverage. Start small and develop a track record of success.

If you are starting a new job, offer to be in the office full-time for the first six to eight months, to ensure that you are solidly acquainted with your coworkers and the work environment before starting “off-site”.

Telework is not for everyone, but with fuel prices soaring and communication technologies shrinking distances worldwide, it may just be the right option for you.

Posted in Career

Introducing TES Aerospace

After years of staffing aerospace roles for clients worldwide, TES launches its aerospace division.

We source the full range of expertise for aviation completions, engineering and maintenance, in areas including:

  • Avionics
  • Cabinetmaking
  • Composite
  • Doors
  • Electrical
  • Experimental
  • Flight Control
  • Flight Deck
  • Flight Test/Ground Test
  • Hydro-Mechanical Systems
  • Interiors
  • Landing Gears
  • Liaison Engineering
  • Maintenance
  • Manufacturing/Methods
  • Materials and Process
  • NC Programming
  • Primary and Secondary Structures
  • Power Plant
  • Pylon
  • Simulation Programmers
  • Stress
  • Technical Publications
  • Tooling
  • Weights

For information about current opportunities, contact Geoff Nixon, Manager of Aviation Recruitment, at 1-866-977-3577.

Posted in Job Hunting, News

How to be your recruiter’s dream candidate

Recruiters want to place people in jobs. You want to be placed in a job. It should be a pretty easy relationship, no? Well, not always.

There’s lots you can do to help your recruiter help you better. Here are some basic points of strategy, etiquette and common sense that will help you be the go-to candidate they can put forward with confidence.

  1. Choose an agency that does a lot of what you do. If you’re a piping engineer, if you’re a DBA, if you’re an aircraft designer, it’s all the same. An agency that deals a lot in your particular skill set will have some powerful advantages. They’ll have more roles that fit you, and they’ll have a better understanding of which assignments are right for you. Before signing up with a recruiter, quiz them on the state of your technological area, the major skills and technologies it requires, the different types of jobs currently available in which sectors. You want someone who knows your field and where you fit in it.

  2. Be honest about the other irons you have in the fire. Jobhunting isn’t like dating — nobody will think badly of you if you’re pursuing multiple leads! You are allowed (and expected) to have relationships with more than one agency. If your recruiter knows that you are interviewing for other roles, they may be able to get the client to speed up the decision-making process or even rethink their offer.

  3. Be honest about your level of interest in a job. Many candidates are afraid to say, “no, I don’t want that one,” for fear that the recruiter will not come back again in the future. It’s okay to say no thank you right off the bat, and most recruiters actually prefer an up-front “no” rather than a lukewarm, “well, maybe, I guess.” What does frustrate them is going through a full submittal and interview-arrangement process before finding out that you were never really interested in the first place.

  4. Take feedback on your resume. Recruiters see a lot of resumes come and go, and more importantly, they see which ones catch an employer’s eye and which ones get consistently passed over. Take their advice when it comes to any aspect of your resume, and submit an updated one. Maybe that unusual font or the 15-page length weren’t the best idea after all.

  5. Do some deep thinking. It’s best to have some of your gotta-haves/can’t-do’s worked out before you embark on the job hunt. What is the maximum time/distance you are willing to commute? Would you consider relocation? Shift work? What is the lowest wage you will consider? What are your short, medium and long-term career goals? If you’re currently working, what will it take to cause you to leave your current position? The more specific you can be about these things, the better the recruiter can weed out the opportunities you won’t want from the ones you will.

  6. Find out how they prefer to communicate. Recruiters are individuals. For one agent, a candidate who checks in weekly is doing a good job of demonstrating interest and keeping their profile high. For another, that much contact crosses the line from “go-getter” to “pest”. Ask what their expectations are in terms of contact, then carry through with the contact at the ideal intervals. Likewise, some enjoy the opportunity to “talk shop” and hear your perspective on the state of the industry you work in, where others prefer a “just the facts” style of interaction. Both approaches are fine, but don’t be afraid to ask which one works best for them.

  7. Develop a mutual-trust relationship. Don’t treat recruiters as temporary inconveniences. Choose a few, and get to know them. Many recruiters have a stable of reliable “go-to” candidates who function well in many environments and with many personality types. They’ll offer the big opportunities to the known performers first. On your side, you need to let your recruiter in on any issues you’re having on the job. They can often intervene to fix or improve things… but that’s easiest done before problems become insurmountable. Keep them in the loop from the get-go.

  8. Be accessible and responsive! You would be surprised how many candidates give contact email addresses, then only check them once every couple of weeks. By that point, the job has gone to someone else. By phone, email, or fax, make sure that your recruiter can find you when your dream job comes up.

Posted in Job Hunting

Do you have what it takes to be a fluffy puppy?

Getting an employer to take a chance on you when you’re not the ideal candidate.

You’re smart, you’re motivated, you KNOW you can do the job. But your resume and their wish-list of skills and qualifications don’t quite line up. How do you get them to give you a second look, and (hopefully) let you in the door to prove yourself?

  1. Don’t go it alone. This is where an agency can really shine for you. When you throw your resume in the door all by itself (on paper or electronically), it’s got a good chance of landing in the slushpile with thousands of others. Many companies these days use keyword-software that searches for the items identified in the job requirements. If you don’t have exactly the right words, the software will discard you before humans ever lay eyes on that resume you sweated blood over.

    An agency will have an account manager who has a direct line to the employer’s hiring managers. If you can persuade the account manager (through your recruiter) that you’re the one for the job, an account manager with good rapport and a record of “good picks” can use their credibility to make a personal case for you. Instead of one in thousands, maybe you’re now one in ten, or fewer. WAY better odds.

  2. Give them the sales pitch for you. If you know you could be perfect for that job, tell your recruiter why. Explain, with solid details, why your lack of some items on the “wish list” won’t affect your ability to perform the role well. That makes it easier for them to turn around and sell you effectively to the client.

  3. Consider the “fluffy puppy” maneuver. Recruiters know this one. It’s easier to say no to the doggie in the window at the pet store. If you bring it home and keep it for a couple of weeks and get used to having it around… you’re far less likely to give it back. If you can find a way to get in the door for a couple of weeks, you’ll have your chance to prove you can be an asset to the team. If possible, offer to work a two week trial period for free, or at a reduced rate for the first probationary months of the contract. When you reduce the financial risk they take by agreeing to take you on, you increase your chances.

  4. Find out exactly what their reservations are, and address them. Ask your recruiter to help you with this one. If they can give you specific concerns, then you can respond, through your agency, with specific reassurances. Maybe you don’t have the right number of years in the industry… but you can point to the time you’ve also spent in related fields. Maybe you don’t have the certification they want… but it’s underway, and you can give a specific timeline for completing it. Maybe you can offer to undertake extra training on your own time. If you know what the problem is, you can address it directly.

  5. Be enthusiastic — but the right kind of enthusiastic. Imagine that you are about to undergo surgery. You find out that you are your surgeon’s very first case. Concerned, you meet with the surgeon to talk it over. Do you want someone who bounces up and down with eagerness to try out their new-found skills on you? Or would you be more persuaded by someone who takes your fears seriously, and explains all the things they have done to prepare for this role, and do it really well? Energy and a can-do approach are all very nice, but back it up with research, communication and facts. Find ways to show that you are committed to your clients’ benefit and not just your own.

  6. Make a business case for choosing you. The hiring manager may like you, but they still need to justify their decisions on a costs-and-benefits basis. So be able to point out how choosing you makes good business sense. Maybe your services will cost less than the others’. Maybe you’ll be able to fill multiple skill niches, and prevent the employer from having to hire extra expertise. Maybe you have outstanding team skills, or can offer high flexibility when it comes to travel or shift work. If you can point to the ways that hiring you will accomplish your client’s goals more effectively or economically, your chances just got a lot better.

Posted in Job Hunting

Happily Employed, Unemployed, Underemployed?

6 good reasons to update your resume today, no matter where you are

If you’re actively seeking a job, then of course you know that a well-honed, completely up-to-date resume is a must-have. But people with jobs need one almost as much.

If you’re employed, good. If you’re happily employed, even better. But a lot of people are clinging to jobs that don’t satisfy them, because they don’t feel like they have any other option in the current economy. Or even if they like their current placement, they don’t see that a resume is a tool that can bring you more job satisfaction, a better compensation package, and a chance to chart your future career direction.

Read on for six reasons why an updated resume can make your life better, even if you’re not jobhunting.

  1. The unexpected opportunity
  2. The missed match
  3. The new boss
  4. Negotiating for a raise
  5. Jumping into social networking
  6. Taking inventory, career planning

1. The unexpected opportunity

It happens, more often than you think. A recruiter, or an old colleague, calls you with a chance at your Dream Job, or at the very least, something exciting and attractive. Maybe a shorter commute. Maybe more flexible hours. Maybe a crack at technologies or subject areas you’d love to get your hands into. Or have you just found out that an important connection will be at a gathering you’re planning to attend? But you have to act fast. Is this the time to go home and try to figure out how to distill the last eight years’ work and achievements into five lines of text? And wonder whether your format is dated? Better to be ready.

2. The missed match

Maybe the perfect, exciting opportunity came by, but nobody thought to ring your phone because they don’t know you’ve become the right person for the job. Have you picked up any new technological skills lately? Taken any courses? Jumped up to a new job title? Taken responsibility for larger-scale projects than before? The people who could set you on the next step up will only know about it if you update, and distribute, that resume.

3. The new boss

You can take control of that critical first impression by bringing your resume to your first one-on-one chat. Use it to kick off the dialogue about where you’ve been, what you are doing, and where you’d like to go. Presenting it in resume format may serve as a reminder that you are a hot property and they don’t want to lose you.

4. Negotiating for a raise

A lot of us have a hard time raising our voices to ask for a more advantageous deal, particularly in uncertain economic times. You’ll get farther, and be more confident, if you can point out dollars-and-cents ways in which your work benefits the organization. Likewise, can you show an expanding list of more and more responsible roles, projects completed, tricky jobs carried out? Update your resume and it’ll all be in one place.

5. Jumping into social networking

Okay, you’re not quite ready to post your resume on Monster.ca or Workopolis. You’d like to be a bit more subtle than that. But you want to be out there, maybe test the waters a bit. Update your resume, distill it down, and transfer it into LinkedIn as a profile that will show up and shine when recruiters and other professionals are scanning for talent.

6. Taking inventory, career planning

When times get tough, you go into survival mode. At least you have a job, and that’s good. But you don’t want to stay in that mode for too long. The economy’s been fluctuating for centuries; it will continue to do so for centuries to come. You need to spend some time reflecting on where you’ve been, what you’ve learned – about your professional field and about yourself – and where you want to go. Maybe into a different organization, a smaller or larger one. Maybe further up the ladder. Maybe onto a completely different ladder altogether. The accomplishments that you’re proudest of, and the jobs you enjoyed the most – are they telling you something? What about your volunteer involvements, or the educational qualification you’d like to put on there, but don’t have… yet?

Take a few hours to bring your resume up to date, and see how it looks in black and white. When you add in the last two (three, five, ten) years of entries, do you feel happy and proud? Like your best talents are being utilized and developed? Like you’re in the right place? Because if this exercise shows you that you’re not… well, now you have an up-to-date resume. Time to see where it can take you.

Posted in Career, Job Hunting