Is Your Resume Costing You Job Opportunities?

October 18th, 2019

You’ve been sending out applications and reaching out to employers for weeks, but so far, you haven’t yet connected with a company or a position that meets your needs. What’s going on? You’re qualified for these roles, or at least you seem to be based on the job posts. Plus you’re nice, hardworking, and ready to roll up your sleeves. So what’s the problem? Could it be your resume?

The short answer: Yes. Your resume may actually be holding you back and preventing you from accessing the best opportunities available. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you give your document another look.

No Typos. Not Even One.

Not sure how to capitalize or punctuate the term “Master’s Degree”? What should you do with the “The” at the beginning of your university’s name? Should these two words be hyphenated? What about those two? Is the correct word “hard-working” or “hardworking”? Look it up and figure it out, because here’s some news: if you’re wrong, your employers will notice.

Be Selective with your Information

You don’t need to include every single workday and every project you’ve ever completed on your resume. You also don’t need to mine your entire life for every single action that can be considered an “accomplishment”. Be selective. Chose only the past jobs, accomplishments, coursework or volunteer projects that are most relevant to the specific job you’re pursuing and most likely to impress your specific target employers. Everything else just comes off as clutter and a distraction. More does not mean better.

Layout Matters.

Don’t crush hundreds of words onto a single page by reducing the font size and creating impenetrable blocks of text. Again, more information won’t take you where you need to go. Instead, reduce all that noise and all of those words to the few items that are the most helpful and relevant to the moment at hand. Then present that pared-down information in a way that’s relaxed and readable on the page. Open up the white space and separate your paragraphs and lines.

Get Help.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a friend or mentor (even better, a professional resume editor) take a close look at your document before you send it out. During the course of your career, you’ll rely on others for help over and over again; if you don’t, you won’t get very far. Get over your pride and reach out so you can make sure your resume is creating a positive impression.

For more help with your resume, job search, and career development, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

September 20th, 2019

At some point in the post-war 1950s, an age that left us with much of what we recognize today as “office” culture, handshakes evolved from a simple way of saying hello into a deeply nuanced and presumably meaningful form of communication.

It may have been JFK who initially infused the handshake with extra significance, or it may have been any number of self-appointed gurus who promised their audience a host of easy moves that could rocket them to top of the business ladder. But however it happened, a “firm handshake” came roaring into style. If you clutched your associate’s hand in a death grip, he or she would see you as a confident, commanding winner, an important person. Someone to be taken seriously.

But in the generations since then, we’ve all come to recognize handshakes as a form of performance and a transparent attempt to come off as winners, and we’ve all been trained to grasp tightly, just like Lee Iacocca (or whoever) told us to.

Because we’ve been taught to overthink and overperform our handshakes, there’s really only one rule for shaking hands in 2019: Don’t. If your handshake is noticeable, that’s no good. Keep your shake easy, breezy, and over. Here are a few simple ways to remove the focus from your hand and keep it on your face and voice, where it belongs.

Don’t clutch.

Pressure may have once conveyed confidence, but now it just conveys that you’re thinking really hard about the pressure of your handshake. Grip the person’s hand about as hard as you would grip the knob of a door that you’re about to open. Then release and move on.

Eye contact matters most.

Keep your eyes on the person’s eyes and smile. Repeat their name back to them as you squeeze their hand. Tell them it’s nice to see them.

A single shake and let go.

Shake once with warmth and eye contact, then let go. Don’t comment on the handshake. Don’t act impressed with its firmness. Don’t make a joke about the shake being limp or sweaty. Don’t apologize for your shake and don’t apologize for not shaking if you prefer not to shake. Don’t assume that a gentle handshake means a weak person, and don’t assume that a firm handshake means a reliable person. Assumptions like these are always wrong, and they rarely support clear communication; they only cloud it. The less said (and thought) about the shake, the better.

Don’t wipe your hand on your pants.

The reflex may be strong, especially if you’re nervous as you enter the encounter. But even if your hand comes away as clammy as a Florida swamp, wait five seconds before you attend to it.

Your associate should notice you, not your shake. Focus on the person and your relationship, not your hands. For more on how to stay cool and stay ahead, talk to the career pros at PSU.

Can’t Seem to Focus? Here’s How to Refocus Your Energy at the Office

August 16th, 2019

The summer is here, and the weather is sunny and beautiful…outside of your office window. Everyone seems to be having fun except for you, and all the fun and inspiration seem to be happening somewhere outside of your cubicle. In fact, what may have started as a mild tendency toward daydreaming and distraction have now become genuinely concerning, since you’re staring to space on your deadlines and you sometimes complete two solid hours of work in an eight-hour day. What should you do? Try these small but helpful moves.

Get up and walk away, literally.

Forcing yourself to stay in the chair and stare at your work won’t do the trick. It may actually have the opposite effect. Why? Because the mind is just like a person, and if you force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it will stiffen and rebel. And when this happens, if you’re a healthy, well-rounded person like most of us, the contest will not be equal. The mind will win. Decisively. So don’t go to war with it; instead, meet it halfway. Show your restless mind some respect and consideration, and later it will show the same consideration to you. Tell your boss or teammate (or whoever needs to know) that you are getting up for a while. Then get up. Don’t come back for 30 minutes.

Don’t worry about wasting time.

If you walk away from your desk for 30 minutes to make peace with your restless mind, you may fear you’re “wasting” those 30 minutes. But you aren’t. If you sat there for a half hour, glued idly to your chair, determined to engage in a losing internal wrestling match, you would truly have wasted the time. A short walk will return you to your seat rested and ready to actually do some work, for real.

Try to remember the big picture.

Let’s say you have to complete and file 30 tedious forms before the day ends. You’re unfocused and you’ve lost interest in this task, but it needs to be done. Try backing up and remembering what these forms are really for, who needs them processed, and why. Do they affect real people’s lives in a meaningful way? Recalling that meaning can help you focus and commit to the task until it’s over.

Break your big task down into smaller tasks.

When your chores seem overwhelming and your heart has punched its time card and headed home for the day (but your body still has to stay for five more hours), make this challenge a little easier by breaking it down into baby steps. Get through three of those baby steps, then stop and assess. Then go for three more. Then stop again. Keep doing this until the work is behind you.

For more on how to move forward with your day even when you’re struggling to focus, contact the workplace and career management experts at PSU.

Does Your Employer Value a Work-Life Balance?

July 19th, 2019

All else being equal, if most of us find ourselves choosing between an employer who values work-life balance and one who doesn’t, we’re wise to choose the first. If a company genuinely respects its employees, values their skills and contributions, wants to treat them well and honestly searches for goal alignment (instead of viewing employees as opponents, parasites or obstacles), this will show in the company’s attitude toward personal health and well-being.

A company that respects you is one you want to work for. A company that aims to bend you toward its own purposes and give as little as possible in return is one to avoid. After all, you’re likely to spend at least 40 hours with this company each week, and a little mutual regard goes a long way. Here are a few ways to conduct a work-life balance assessment before you sign on.

Listen for the actual word.

Companies that care about work-life balance use the actual term during the staffing process, and the more often and more respectfully they do so, the more likely they are to take the concept seriously. Watch out for infrequent use, and make note if you hear the term, but it’s embedded in finger quotes or subtly dismissive tones.

Scan your interviewer and other employees in the building.

During your interview, look around, and look closely. Is your interviewer truly enjoying this day, this task, and this job? Are employees in the hallways animated, bright-eyed and friendly? Or are they zoned out and beleaguered? If they seem to enjoy each other’s company and they move at a measured pace with straight backs and smiles, that’s great. If they scramble around and seem irritable or sleep deprived, that’s not so great.

Don’t share your lifestyle or family details (and pay attention if you’re asked).

You may be single, married, childless, raising kids, expecting, a grandparent, engaged, caring for a relative or any of the above, and your family status may be what drives your interest in a balanced life. If so, keep that fact to yourself during interviews. You deserve a balanced and healthy life no matter what your status looks like, and your employer does not need to know (and may NOT legally ask) about the details of your household.

Look online.

Check reviews on Glassdoor and other popular sites to find out what employees really think of the company and how they rate their relationship and experience. Read between the lines and look for specific references to long hours or disregard for personal time.

For more on how to find a great employer and build a meaningful career, turn to the staffing team at PSU.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Temp Job

June 21st, 2019

You’re looking for work, but so far, you’ve avoided any job description or recruiter post that has the words “temporary” or “temp-to-hire” in the text. And you haven’t yet sought out a recruiting agency that can pair you with a position since you assume these pairings won’t involve permanent roles. Here are a few reasons to reconsider your approach. Temporary jobs may not be what you think, and contract or temporary placements aren’t what they were a generation ago. It’s time to take a closer look.

Say goodbye to the typing pool.

You may be held back by an outdated vision of what “temp” jobs really are. Yes, some of these roles may be short-term clerical positions that will have you in and out the door, filing forms for a week and then leaving you back at square one. But most of them are professional positions (programmers, software developers, designers, implementors, market strategists and financial analysts) in which you’ll be carefully reviewed by an employer with eyes toward a long-term relationship. Temps are not just placeholders; they’re candidates for permanent roles.

Don’t be afraid.

Some job seekers avoid temp opportunities because they don’t want to lose control of their career paths. They fear that signing a temporary contract will derail their search, cause them to miss other opportunities and require hard work that leads to a dead end. First, no role is a dead end. A six-month contract role is the best possible networking opportunity, even if it doesn’t lead to a full-time job. And the role WILL likely lead to a full-time job if you like the workplace and develop a productive relationship with your employer.

Stability comes from agility.

Here’s another outdated idea: Long-term roles are stable, unshakable paths that lead straight to comfort, security, complacency and a well-funded retirement. The reality: no job is permanent. Nothing is guaranteed forever, and in 2019, the strongest form of stability doesn’t come from a job with the word “full-time” in the description; it comes from staying light on your feet, ready for change and secure in your own skills and adaptability. Modern-day job security isn’t like a building with a deep foundation. It’s more like a boat at sea, well-built, buoyant and ready to roll with the waves.

Move forward, don’t stand still.

Before you pass up a temporary role and hold out for something long term, consider the opportunity costs that come from staying on the market for another few weeks or months. Will your eventual salary be high enough to cover that lost time? Maybe. But you’ll likely be better off if you start working as soon as possible and make real-time decisions and direction changes as you move forward. Temp jobs provide options, opportunities, new skills and new professional connections. But they also provide something even more valuable: a paycheck. Contact the staffing team at PSU to learn more.

Why Finding a Job in North Carolina Might Be the Perfect Opportunity for You!

May 24th, 2019

Are you looking for a job and willing to relocate to an exciting state with booming economic opportunities? Of course you are! There’s no need to stay in one place forever, and the more you see of the world, the more chance you’ll have to build strong professional relationships, see new sides of your industry, explore new cultures and make sure you aren’t missing out on exciting chapter of life. Here’s why you may want to consider a job in North Carolina.

The reviews are in.

Why move? Because surveys and reviewers have spent time gathering the data and the numbers don’t lie. US News recently ranked the Raleigh-Durham area as one of the best job markets and best places to live in the United States. Wallet Hub, Zippia and Indeed.com also gave high marks to NC, which makes sense, since our state offers several of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas.

You’re looking for work in healthcare.

The most popular and highest-paying opportunities in North Carolina cover the standard spectrum (CEOs and marketing managers do well here, as they do everywhere). But the true hot button industry in the state appears to be healthcare. Internists, OBGYNs, surgeons, psychiatrists and dentists thrive in the state, and prospects for these roles seem to be growing as the population expands.

A reasonable cost of living.

Charlotte and Raleigh both have populations of about a half million people (400,000 and 800,000 respectively), which means they have culture, history, events, art and plenty to see and do. But they’re also both surprisingly livable. To get by comfortably in either city, a Huffington Post study recommends a household income of about $53,000 per year. If you’re targeting a position in any of NC’s booming industries, from healthcare to the arts, you should be able to thrive here and save a little for your retirement.

The landscape is beautiful.

North Carolina offers the natural beauty of the coast, plus history, architecture and old-world charm. If you don’t like winter and you’d rather enjoy the beach than shovel snow, this is the state for you!

You have plenty of help.

If you’re heading to North Carolina in search of job opportunities and a fun, active lifestyle, you won’t have to navigate the transition alone. Contact the team at PSU and we’ll connect you to an employer in your chosen field and help you start working your way up the ladder.

Top YouTubers to Subscribe to for Great Career Advice

April 19th, 2019

Sometimes great advice comes at a premium, and you get what you pay for. But sometimes, thanks to the internet age, truly valuable wisdom can flow onto our screens and into our ears for free.

We love some of the career advice we find on YouTube (Though not all of it. “Buyer beware” still applies, even when the cost is nothing). Some of our favorite YouTubers include Marie Forelo (https://www.youtube.com/user/marieforleo), Linda Raynier (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXUyg1vYSupswhi0zNeD-5w), Glennon Doyle Melton (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=BpBnGHjda14), Angela Davis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=BZ-d1FrEoE4), and Aileen Xu (https://www.youtube.com/user/Lavendaire). Click on any of their links and you’ll see for yourself what they have to offer: tips; wisdom; personal examples; personal stories; warmth; compassion; statistics; and hard realities for working people looking for ways to get ahead. Want to find your own trusted internet resources? Look for these, plus the qualities below:

Significance beyond the speaker’s own life.

Captivating speakers and YouTubers can grab your attention by talking about themselves … but do they ever move beyond their personal narratives and shift gears to a universal plane? Do they process and share what they’ve learned in ways that can help others? Can they speak to your life as well as their own?

Does the speaker have what you want?

A 22-year-old expert on career growth and workplace management may have some smart tips to share. But based on their age and timeline alone, how much practical help have they really gained from these tips? It’s one thing to carefully curate tidbits collected from the world at large, but it’s something else altogether to apply these tips, test them, discard the myths and fluff and keep the truths and lessons. This takes years of trial, error, mistakes and faith, and if the speaker hasn’t gotten there yet, take their words with a grain of salt.

Does the speaker share more than just one thing?

Some speakers on YouTube give excellent career advice—but the more you listen, the more you realize you’re hearing the same recommendation over and over, packaged in different words. For example, a speaker who constantly repackages the message that “goal setting is important” is definitely not wrong. It is! But not always. And it’s not the MOST important thing. And every piece of advice comes with context and nuance.

Is the speaker answering your questions?

Say you’re dealing with a difficult boss who may be biased against your identity group. In this case, you need practical advice and legal guidance, maybe some information that can get you out of that job and into something better. Don’t spend your time listening to a speaker who tells you to work harder or please your boss by changing yourself. That’s not the answer. Don’t let a YouTube video make you question your own reality. There are plenty of gurus out there—when one isn’t helping, turn to another.

For more on how to find and process career advice, turn to the experts (for real!) at PSU.

Dealing With a Bad Boss

March 22nd, 2019

Do you have a bad boss? Or do you just have a difficult boss who challenges you for the right reasons? A “challenging” boss isn’t a terrible person or an inept manager; they just push you outside your comfort zone. A bad boss, by comparison, isn’t good for you or your career and isn’t helping you grow. Bad bosses don’t push you outside of your comfort zones; they just make you uncomfortable.

So, what’s the difference, and which one are you dealing with? Here’s how to tell.

How do you feel after a conversation ends?

You’ve had a difficult interaction and your boss is now walking away. How do you feel? Are you excited to get back to work? Do you feel as though you may have fallen short this time, but you know what to do going forward, and you can’t wait to take another shot? If that’s the case, you probably have a “difficult” boss. Yes, you tense up at the sound of her footsteps. But afterward, you feel motivated to impress her with your next attempt. When a bad boss walks away, you simply feel demoralized. You wish you could leave the office and not come back.

Do you have a roadmap?

A difficult boss may not seem to love your work, but she gives you a clear roadmap from wherever you are to a point of success. She’s like a demanding coach—she’ll make you run a hundred laps, but you know exactly why you’re running them. You know where you need to go, and you trust her to get you there. A bad boss just doesn’t love your work, period. He offers no guidance or direction and makes no effort to earn your trust or help you improve. If you follow where he leads, you’ll move in circles until the day you decide to stop.

Do you have support?

Your first attempt may have been a mess, but your second was an obvious improvement. How does your boss react? A difficult boss gives encouragement when it’s due (even if reluctantly). A bad boss gives nothing. In fact, he may give you the runaround when you ask for the minimum resources your job requires, including data, better tools, a raise or help with a problem.

Are you truly miserable?

Toxic or abusive relationships aren’t always easy to spot and stop right away. If they were, they would never happen. Instead, the true nature of the relationship slips in unnoticed and builds for a long time before it’s recognized and addressed. Take a moment to assess the situation objectively, without making any excuses for yourself or the other person. If you don’t like what you see, you CAN do better. Talk to the experts at PSU and start planning your move to a better job somewhere else.

Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

February 15th, 2019

If you’re like almost every other job seeker with a few years of life experience, you’ve probably been through one or two chapters in which you were either unemployed for a while or employed in a position with a title that doesn’t reflect your career goals. During the years since your graduation from high school or college, you’ve held one or more working roles, and in between those roles, you may have spent time searching for work, caring for family, recovering from an illness, traveling, attending classes, holding a short-term position to pay the bills, or anything else that filled your days but won’t work well as an entry on your resume.

Some employers perceive these “gaps” as idle chapters that require an explanation. And even those who understand that a gap isn’t a crime may still be curious. How did you spend that time? The answer can help employers and recruiters learn a little bit more about you. Here are a few tips that let you explain just enough of your life story without sharing too much.

First, understand the goal.

A six-month period between one job and the next won’t put you in the hot seat or signal a character weakness (at least not for a responsible employer). But it might suggest that 1) you were looking for work and being turned away; or 2) you weren’t looking for work, despite your evident free time. Both can indicate you aren’t as ambitious or growth-focused as your application suggests. You’ll want to allay this concern and convince your employers that, in fact, you ARE focused on the long-term growth of your career, gap or no gap.

Don’t overshare.

Never reveal your marital or family status to an employer until you’re onboard. If you took time off for your children, parents or an ill partner, keep that to yourself. Your family status is protected information, something your employers don’t need to know. (In fact, it’s illegal to ask).

Emphasize the positive.

Were you volunteering during this time? Describe your experience. Were you on a sabbatical or studying? Share! These are positive data points that can help you shine, even if they aren’t the primary reason you weren’t working during the period in question.

Move on quickly.

If an employer points to a six-month, two-year or ten-year chapter your resume doesn’t account for, have a short answer prepared, deliver it, and then move past the subject quickly. End your (very short) story by providing reassurance you haven’t missed a beat and your skills have not become rusty.

For more on how to frame your life story in a way that aligns with the needs of your potential employer, talk to the job search and interview experts at PSU.

How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

January 18th, 2019

The winter blahs can take a toll on any form of motivation. No matter what we hope to do—stay in shape, try new things, make new friends—it’s not easy to begin the process during the peak of the January doldrums. But there are few challenges harder to face in the winter then searching for a new job. So how can you get up and get out there when you’d really rather cuddle up with some cocoa and watch the snow fall? Here are few tips.

Stay focused on your goal.

Remember that landing your new job will be the kindest gift you can give yourself. If it’s what you want and need more than anything, then consider a new job the greatest form of self-care that you can offer yourself. Cocoa is nice, and cuddling up is nice, but real financial security and career growth are even nicer. Stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, and most important of all, stay focused on your most valuable goal.

Draw strength from your family and friends.

Too often, especially during the bleak winter, we tend to hide our weaknesses and problems from others. We hole up and protect ourselves by not letting anyone know what we’re going through. Do this if it makes you feel safe, but remember that your friends are part of a vast professional network and they may be able to help you in ways you don’t realize. Their help can take the form of both emotional and practical support, so know that both are available to you—if you’re willing to reach out.

Make lists and stay organized.

It’s easier to wake up, pick up your list, and start checking off items than it is to wake up to a completely blank slate. Each night, give yourself a gift for the next morning: a sense of direction and purpose. Create a list and make sure the first item is an easy one to cross off. As soon as you pour your first cup of coffee the next morning, you’ll already be on your way.

Talk to someone who can help you.

Find someone you know with specific experience in your specific field, someone who can speak to you directly about the challenges you face. You can think of this person as a long-term mentor or just a one-time conversationalist over a cup of coffee, but put yourself in their presence for a minute so you can remember where you’re going and why.

Create small goals that lead to bigger ones.

Have a few goals and to-do items on your list that you can check off in an hour. Include a few more that may take you a day. Have at least one goal that you can accomplish in a week. And a month. And so on. Break the bigger goals down into smaller tasks and maintain a sense of forward momentum.

For more on how to keep moving toward your new job, no matter what distractions and challenges lie in your way, talk to the job search team at PSU.

 

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