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Uniqueness July 21, 2016

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Whether looking for a job or looking for customers it pays to have a competitive advantage, or uniqueness, sometimes even called a unique selling proposition.

Consider this. You can buy a specific brand of car – Chevy for example, at three dealers within the Rochester area and according to Google about 16 others within an hour or so drive.  What makes you decide to buy from one particular dealer over the others?  It could be price, customer service, reviews, recommendations or any number of different factors.  If one of these factors is particularly important to you it may be enough to make you drive one-hour just to buy from that specific dealer when one is perhaps 15 minutes away but they don’t have that characteristic that is most important to you.  This is the net effect of their competitive advantage-uniqueness-unique selling proposition.

Getting a handle on your own competitive advantage can help you land interviews and then during the interview make it easy for your potential employer to select you over the others. Provide them with something so irresistible, so truly unique that they will have no choice but to offer you the job. It’s not easy but it’s a worthwhile exercise to go through and it could be just what you need to move yourself forward.

Until next time….

Tell Me About a Time…. June 30, 2016

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While a fairly typical interview question I still cringe every time I hear it, however telling stories (and telling them well ) is part of the job search. The challenge comes with what to say and how much to say?  If you don’t give enough information you leave the interviewer hanging and wanting more.  They may ask for more or may simply figure you have nothing more to offer and move on which results in a missed opportunity.

So what is the magic formula? Check out this very short article which provides a simple framework you can use the next time anyone asks you to “tell me about at time…”

Enjoy the long July 4th weekend.

Until next time….

Advice to Recent Grads (and a Refresher for the Rest) Part 2 June 16, 2016

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I’d like to continue with my thoughts from my previous post with some additional topics recent graduates may want to consider as they look to secure their first gig.

Identify your brand.

  • Who are you and what do you offer? Face it, you are a product and a product needs to be explained to potential buyers (employers). What are your unique selling propositions? What do you have to offer that other people do not?  Think carefully about this as it can be a real advantage to offer something the other candidates cannot.
  • Did you have internships while you were in school?
  • Did you work other jobs to help pay for your education? This can be seen as  big plus but fear not if you were not working to help pay the fact you had a job and were able to juggle it with  your other commitments demonstrates positive characteristics to a potential employer.
  • Did you play a sport? This like holding down a job shows how you can successfully balance multiple priorities.  Where you team captain (leadership)?

Identify target companies. 

  • What type of companies do you want to work for, beyond a particular industry?
  • Some things to consider:
  • Number of employees
  • Revenue
  • Years in business – start up or well established
  • Location
  • Reputation
  • Culture

Research your target companies

Use some of these tools to find out more about your target companies. Leverage your developing network too; find out who knows someone who either works there or worked there in the past.

Leverage your career services office and the alumni network. Take full advantage of your career services office.  Just because you are no longer on campus does not mean you can’t benefit from these services.  Check in with your alumni relations office and find out how they can help hook you up with previous grads who may be working for your target companies.  Use LinkedIn to find alumni groups on LinkedIn and join them.

Speaking of LinkedIn.

Make sure your profile is complete, including a nice head shot for your profile.  No frat party or spring break photos here, take the time to get a nice professional photo or if you have a nice clean image crop it.  Not on LinkedIn or only have a partial profile?  What are you waiting for??? Get this fixed right now.

Landing that first gig can be a challenge and may try your patience and possibly cause some self doubt. Stay positive, you are not the first person to experience this.  Celebrate the small victories along the way and maintain the positive “self-talk.”  Before you know it you’ll be gainfully employed!

Until next time….


Networking Advice for the Recent Grad May 25, 2016

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For most universities graduation season has passed by and another batch of graduates is on the street actively looking for work with the hopes of putting all they have learned over the last 4 years (or more) to good use.  According to different sources I’ve heard this is one of the more challenging years for recent grads to find work but at the same time I’ve heard it is just as challenging as previous years. It is what you make it I suppose.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post my opinion is many recent grads lack the skills needed to conduct a quality job search after graduation.  This is one area where I think all universities could improve by simply offering a one semester course the beginning of junior year tailored specific to the job search.

Here are my recommendations for a successful job search for recent college grads (and any other job seeker for that matter).

  1. Build your network – when doing this remember quality trumps quantity.  Attend various networking functions, set up informational meetings in order to find the right people who can connect you, direct you and offer support and guidance along the way.  Don’t forget to find out how you can help them as well – it’s easier than you think.
  2. Update your resume – make sure any/all relevant work experience appears even summer or campus jobs as these show drive, maturity and responsibility.  Make sure you include any academic recognition (honors, awards, etc) in order set yourself apart from the rest of the field.
  3. Clean up your act – give your social media profiles the “once over” making sure to remove any questionable content.  Update or create your LinkedIn profile making sure to include a nice professional looking photo as this is frequently the first place HR people will visit.
  4. Be visible – it’s true we live in a connected world now but you need to get out from behind the computer if you want any shot at getting the job you want.  Volunteer at a local organization, attend industry related events, set up lunch meetings or even go to the gym during the afternoon, you never know who is sneaking in a quick lunchtime workout.  It could be your next boss.

No doubt landing that first gig is a challenge but if you get yourself organized, follow some simple guidelines and set up a regular routine you will find yourself signing that offer letter sooner than you think.

Until next time….

I Suck at Networking April 28, 2016

Posted by robewanow in Uncategorized.

Really I do.  I could really use some improvement in this area.  It seems that when one is Pressureemployed we quickly “fall out of practice” with our networking skills.  One of the “advantages” of being unemployed is your sole focus is setting up meetings and networking your way towards your next gig.

But should being fully employed stop you/me?  No it should not and maybe I should not put so much pressure on myself to network, network, network. Just relax and let it happen naturally.  Forget about how many people you met at that last chamber mixer or how many business cards you collected at the last Digital Rochester event. It only takes one good conversation to lead you to that next thing whether its a job lead or a new customer.  This  conversation can happen anywhere too!  Where is the most unique location you’ve had such a conversation?

Many people say networking is not fun.  If that’s you then its time to make it fun. How do you make it fun?  Join a club that interests you, a photography club, bike club, book club.  Pick groups that participate in events and activities you like such as wine tastings, beer tastings, sports.  Engage the person next to you on the tread mill at the gym, talk fitness.  Heck it’s safe to assume you are both there for the same reason.  Compare notes! Ask for suggestions.  You really don’t know where the conversation can lead.

Consider joining  a professional group which aligns with your career goals and attend any educational events, conferences, mixers, etc. they may offer.  This has two benefits.  You might learn something you can bring back to your job AND you might make that connection you’ve been looking for.

Bottom line, we can all improve our networking skills and networking in itself is not normal.  So chill out, relax and have fun.  You might be surprised with the results.

Until next time….




Follow Up, When? How Often? How Long? April 7, 2016

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So you cruised through the phone interview with the recruiter or hiring manager and have been granted an in-person interview. You glide through that, effectively and efficiently answering all questions with thoughtful responses chock full of examples which directly relate to the opportunity at hand.

Your next stop is with a company executive or executives. Naturally this is a little more stressful but with the appropriate amount of research and preparation you’re confident in your presentation.  After an hour or so you walk out of that interview filled with confidence and hope.  “A decision can’t be far off” you say to yourself.  “I’ve done all the right things”, research, prepare, rehearse, sent customized thank you notes to each individual.

It’s now 5-7 days later and nothing……no email rejection, no phone call asking if you would like to discuss an offer.

Time to start some effective follow up activities but how should you do this, how often and for how long?

No doubt you’ve met with the hiring manager so this is where you should focus your efforts. I’d suggest a phone call. Before you make that call though figure out what you want to say, what you want to discover.  Then rehearse exactly how you will open the conversation or more likely, leave a voice mail message.  Make sure you reiterate your interest in the opportunity and joining the team along with the skills you can bring to the table.

I’d give it 2-3 business days and if no reply is received I’d follow up with a brief email with a message similar to your voice mail. I’d suggest writing in off line and reviewing it a few times before you copy and paste into your email client and hit “send.”

After a week or so with no reply I would start the sequence over. For subsequent follow up messages, either email or voice mail I would be rather brief. Simply state you are following up to find out where they are in the process and reiterate your interest in joining the team and if they have any questions or concerns related to your background that you would appreciate the opportunity to address them.

I would repeat this process 2-3 times. Eventually you will get an answer which will determine your next steps.  Either you are out of the running, they are still interviewing (schedules do change, executives do travel) or they want to talk about an offer.

If you are still in the running I’d keep repeating the process until you receive an answer. This is a solid and persistent, yet not annoying process which keeps you top of mind.  Consider the following:

80% of sales require 5 follow up calls after a meeting and 44% give up after one attempt

Don’t you think it’s worth the extra effort?

Until next time….



Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Beers March 24, 2016

Posted by robewanow in Family, General, Job Search, Work.
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Here is one of my favorite posts.  I wanted to re-post this so you may either enjoy it again or enjoy it for the first time.

Until next time….

Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Beers

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a
day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front
of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and
empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then
asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar
He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between
the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They
agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of
course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar
was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the
entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between
the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to
recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the
important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends
and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they
remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and
your car.

The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room
for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all
your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the
things that are important to you.

‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend
time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with
grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to
dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and
fix the disposal. Take care of the golf ball first—the things that really
matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.
The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows
you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a
couple of Beers with a friend.’

Take It, or Leave It? February 25, 2016

Posted by robewanow in Job Search.
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During the job search we tend to focus on the obvious things that get us the interview (and hopefully an offer) such as resumes, cover letters, interview skills, research etc.  Many times in our desire to land the job I think we tend to overlook our “fit” within the potential organization.  How are decisions made?  How do people interact with each other?  What is the daily environment like?

While your interview performance, skills, ability and background may tell the hiring manager you are a good match you should take steps to validate this yourself before you decide to accept or decline the offer.  Speaking from experience, failure to do this can lead to unwelcome surprises down the road.

So how do you do this, and when?

Before your interview make a list of what is important to you, how you work, how you interact with others.  Try to be specific using terms such as collaborative, deadline oriented, process oriented and skip the general terms you hear all the time like creative, hard working, people person and so on.

During the interview when it’s your time to ask questions, include:

“What are the traits of people who really succeed at this company / on this team / in this role?”

then follow up with

“And what are the traits of people who don’t?”

These are direct and to the point questions that should yield some good insight, even if the interviewer tries to be “diplomatic.”

Once you have gathered the information compare it to your list and see how it stacks up.  Are there lots of similarities?  Good, this may be the place for you.  Not a lot of similarities?  That’s ok too, better to know this is not a good fit now rather than later on down the road.

Don’t forget the interview process is a two way street.  The hiring manager is assessing you and you should be gathering the information you need in order to make an educated decision culminating in “take it or leave it.”

Until next time.

Post adapted from content found on The Muse





Happy Chinese New Year – The Year of the Monkey February 11, 2016

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Monkey2016This week marks the celebration of the Chinese or Lunar New Year, this year is the year of the Monkey and is the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring Chinese zodiac cycle.  Additionally in Chinese astrology each year is also associated with one of five elements; for 2016 that element is fire, technically making 2016 the year of the Fire Monkey.  Interesting to note while the animal signs repeat every 12 months the animal-element combinations recur every 60 years.  People born in Fire Monkey Years tend to be optimistic, adventurous and positive this holds true for the year in general too.

How does this affect your job search?

Well in addition to the above characteristics, monkeys are considered inventive, creative and energetic – good traits for those in job search mode this year.

We all know your prospects can change from feast to famine and back again overnight.   If you are like a monkey this won’t derail your search because you have the ability to creatively adjust your tactics and the energy to keep pushing in the face of adversity.  In addition, the positive energy associated with this zodiac sign will give you the extra push you need and get you one step closer to your next opportunity.

So what’s holding you back?

Get out there and act like a monkey!

Until next time….




Stop Procrastinating January 28, 2016

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I admit it.  I am guilty at times of procrastination, in some way at some point I think we all are.  The trick, I believe, is to recognize it and put an end to it.

Procrastination can be especially prevalent in the job search.  Some days it’s way easier to say “I’ll get to that tomorrow, I’ve got plenty of time.” Before you know it it’s 2 days or a week later and you still have not completed that task.  Maybe you needed to update your resume or follow up and schedule a meeting with a contact someone gave you in a prior meeting. The truth is the longer you put off a task the more likely it never be completed and when we are talking job search that will severely hamper your chances of landing quickly in the job you want.

Check out this interesting article I found on The Ladders.  It discusses 6 Easy Steps to Stop Procrastinating.   I admit, while I never heard or thought of the very first suggestion, it does make sense when you think about it.

Until next time….