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Putting Your Job Search Plan Into Action

September 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

In my last blog, I gave you some tips to get started on your job search – commit to a plan, take inventory, create and practice your infomercial, keep your resume up to date, tell everyone you know that you’re looking and what you’re looking for!

Now that you’ve done all that (you have, haven’t you!?) let’s talk about putting your plan into action.

First of all – get out there! Most people spend 80% of their job search time on the computer and only 20% (or less) networking and meeting people. It should be the opposite. Those rumors you heard about the Internet being a job-search “black hole” are true. Think about where you can go to make professional contacts. Where are other people in your industry going? Find professional organizations in your field and become an active part of them. Volunteer. Seek opportunities to meet new people and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. There are a number of job search networking groups in the Bay Area. Their meetings often include panel discussions with corporate HR representatives who can give you the latest information on who’s hiring.

Maintain an online presence. This doesn’t mean posting your resume on every job site. It means being active on social networking sites, in particular, LinkedIn. Develop a strong LinkedIn summary and be sure your work experience is up-to-date and achievement oriented. Make sure you have at least three recommendations that speak to your abilities. Build your credibility and presence by posting articles and commenting on topics related to your areas of expertise. And, of course, join online groups in your field.

Be open and flexible. You have your career ideas in play. With that said, be sure you are listening to ideas and expertise from others as well. Don’t be a “yes, but…” person, be a “yes, and…” person.

Always be thinking “what’s next?” When you land an opportunity, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. What additional skills and competencies do you need to grow in that position and to prepare for the one after that? Stay current!

Most of all, be certain you are living a full life. Career is obviously important, and…it is not everything. What are you doing to have fun? Are you healthy? Are you in a good place with your significant other, family and friends? Are you really living your life based on what success looks like for you?

Don’t stop believin’!

Till next time,


Career, Career planning, Job search, The Get Real Guide to Your Career


5 Tips to Jump Start Your Job Search

September 19th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve been putting off looking for a new opportunity because of summer play and the kids being out of school…well, time’s up. If you are ready to move on, the best time to get started is NOW before the next wave of potential excuses (officially known as “the holidays”) are upon us.

Yes, looking for work takes time and effort. Start by getting focused and developing a plan. Take that first step. Keep a journal of your research notes, your thoughts and feelings and your personal roadmap to career success. Whatever you do, stay positive. Your positive energy will show as you network and interview and will bring you more positive results. Be kind to yourself. Every single day.

Tip #1 Make a Plan and Commit to It
What is your timeframe for landing a new opportunity? Be realistic about your expectations. Everything takes longer than you think. Be patient and stay focused on your goals. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself (remember what I said about being kind?) How many hours per week are you going to spend looking for work?  Based on that number, make a weekly plan. Be as specific as possible.

Tip #2 Take Inventory to Remind Yourself about You
What are your skills? Really think about this. Don’t sell yourself short. What are your values? What is most important to you personally and professionally? What are your barriers (things that have stopped you in the past from being where you want to be)? What accomplishments are you most proud of? Where have you had the most success and why?

Tip #3 Create and Practice a Personal “Infomercial”
Practice communicating your unique professional identity clearly and concisely. What makes you special? What type of work are you looking for? Tell people what you want. “Help them help you.” What does success look like for you? If, based on your inventory, there might be multiple job options available to you, create a clear message for each.

Tip #4 Keep Your Resume Up to Date
When was the last time you updated your resume? Without an up-to-date resume, you may miss a golden opportunity! Review your resume at least every 6 months. Keep a “kudos” file with complimentary emails, project successes, and other accomplishments so you don’t have to strain your brain trying to remember what you’ve done. Make sure your resume is focused, concise, achievement-oriented and error free.

Tip #5 – Tell Everyone You Know What You’re Looking For
Most people who land new opportunities do so through people they know. Make a list of everyone you know – colleagues, friends, relatives, fellow members of professional organizations, people you used to work with, vendors, etc. – and then contact them to let them know you’re looking, and exactly what you’re looking for. You never know who might know someone who is looking for someone like you!!

OK. That should get you started. Next time I’ll have some more tips for putting your plan into action.

Till then,


Career, Career planning, Job search

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Preparing for an Interview? Avoid These “No-No’s”

June 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

You would think that a person would strive to be sensible when they are in job interview mode. Sorry to say that’s not always the case. I have heard some hilarious stories from hiring managers and recruiters.  Although I have complete faith in mankind, I feel compelled to remind people of some No-No’s as they are out interviewing. Yes, they seem like common sense. And yet I’ve heard real-life examples of each of these. Don’t let that be you! Here are my Top 10.

    1. Women – stop with the cleavage already. I don’t care what your age, I don’t care what type of job you are interviewing for, do not show cleavage. It is as simple as that.  Cover up!

    2. Gentlemen – is it really necessary to unbutton that third button? Really? No, the interviewer does not need to see your hairy chest.

    3. Be careful of your aroma. Go easy on the deodorant, cologne, perfume, hair spray, make-up.

    4. Don’t eat before your interview. You don’t want bad breath or something stuck between your teeth. Now THAT would be a distraction.

    5. Do NOT wear blue jeans to the interview. It does not matter how casual the environment. Dress smart. You can show you have style and will fit into the environment wearing something other than blue jeans. Wait until you have the job, then knock your socks off. (And oh by the way, even if you do have the nicest loafers in town and are into the preppy look, DO wear socks!)

    6. Do not check your phone while waiting in the lobby. What could possibly be as important as making a good first impression? What you need to do is pay attention to the employees walking through the lobby and try to get a feel for the culture of the organization.The last thing you need is to have someone walk up to you while you are engrossed in texting. And don’t forget to turn your phone off! Can you imagine having to dig through your purse or pocket to find it, and then shut it off with all the associated apologies and distractions?

    7. Do not slouch, slump back in the chair, or lean on the interviewer’s desk. No one hires a wet noodle. Sit up straight, smile, and make good eye contact.

    8. Do not show up with scuffed shoes. As cool and hip as you might think it is to have scuffed shoes – polish them before your interview. It is a small detail that an interviewer might notice. If you don’t notice that your shoes need polishing, what other detail might you overlook?

    9. Do not ask questions that are answered by the company’s website. Yes, be prepared with questions and be certain they are smart questions.

    10. Do not under any circumstances badmouth your previous boss, your horrible last company, your nightmare teammate. Rise above it. Find something nice to say, or, as my Dad used to say “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

    Yes, these are actually hysterical. Yes, they happen. Startling, I know.

    While on your interview, be yourself, stay positive, smile, say good things, be smart and think before you speak.

    Till next time,


    Career, Interviewing, Job search

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Attention Interviewers: No One Is Perfect!

February 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

The job interview process has turned into the “perfection process.”

It used to be that if you had 80% of the requirements you could attain the other 20% on the job, since every company is different and requires some level of acclimation. And a little “room for growth” was a good thing. Not so today. Organizations believe that they should be able to ask for the moon and if someone doesn’t have one competency on the requirements list they are bounced from the process.

It’s a plug-and-play world out there, my friends.

And that’s just to get your resume past the applicant-tracking monster that chomps and spits out resumes lacking the appropriate key words and phrases. Passing that hurdle, you begin the tortuous journey through the perfection process, often consisting of six or more interviews over a four month period. Or more. And then you are told they will get back to you in a few days, which turns into a few weeks, which may turn into not at all.

A friend of mine recently was subjected to this craziness. Multiple interviews over several months, all with positive feedback. She did all the right things to prepare, to ask good questions, to “check in” as the process progressed. She could fill the role in a heartbeat. She had been brought in by a former colleague. And in the end they told her that it turned out they weren’t hiring in the group where she would fit best. Really? Could they not have determined that earlier?

Why do people in organizations believe that inflicting this type of pain on someone is acceptable? It’s not even humane. Perhaps the perpetrators of pain were similarly tortured during their “perfection process” and feel it only fair to pass it on. It’s insane.

I used to be a recruiter for a hi-tech firm. We had very specific requirements for each position. We selected people for interviews based on those qualifications, and then we paid even closer attention to whether they would be a good fit for the organization. We were building an organization based not on perfection, but on values: what I call the two Cs – Competency and Culture.

The fact is, no one is perfect. No one has every single competency listed on the job description. And yet we have somehow created the expectation of perfection.

I say, let’s get back to basics. Instead of rejecting someone because they don’t walk on water, find out who they are as a human being. Certainly they need to be qualified for the role; yet that doesn’t need to be a 100% match. Consider whether they are someone you would want to work with side-by-side. Are they a team player? Will they “have your back” or throw you under the bus? Can they leave their ego at the door and be willing to learn? Will they put the good of the company ahead of their personal needs? Do they have a life and interests outside of work? Will they be able to bring their personality to work and be an individual versus a company drone that speaks the same, looks the same and acts the same as everyone else?

And…let’s incorporate some civility into the process. Let’s interview in a humane way that makes people feel good as they go through process instead of feeling “less than.”

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” - George Orwell

Till next time,

Interviewing, Job search, Leadership, People

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Creating the Most Important Brand: Brand YOU

June 21st, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Creating YouIn my last blog I talked about STEP 1 in your search for a new opportunity: Taking Inventory. Now that you’ve done that (and I hope you have…if not, what are you waiting for??) let’s talk about how to use that information to create the YOU that’s going to attract a new and wonderful opportunity.
STEP 2 in your search involves transforming what you learned about yourself in the Inventory step into a distinct vision and compelling messaging that clearly articulates your unique value.

There are four sub-steps to Creating You:
1. Define your vision. What do you want to be doing 1 year from now, 3 years from now, 7 years from now? Put yourself in an imaginary time machine to some point in the future. Where are you living? What sort of work do you do? What are you known for? What challenges have you overcome to get where you are? Putting yourself there and “looking back” will help you create your journey.
2. Identify your objectives. Both long term and short term. What are the work experiences you need in order to achieve your vision? What are the opportunities right now that you can pursue? Do some research and write down 3-5 opportunities that align with your skills, values, interests and experience, and that map to your vision.
3. Develop a communication strategy. Your communication strategy defines how you are going to position yourself in networking conversations, informational interviews and job interviews. It’s your “elevator pitch.” It needs to be concise and compelling. It needs to tell the listener, very quickly and very succinctly, who you are and what you are looking for. Your elevator pitch might change based on your audience, so practice multiple ways of presenting “who you are.”
4. Build a resume that reflects your unique talents. Your resume may be one of the most important documents you ever put together. If done effectively, it can attract an interview opportunity that may launch you on the path to your dream job. If not, it may end up in the proverbial “round file.” Make sure that your resume stands out from the rest by ensuring that it is focused, attractive, correct (no spelling or grammar errors), concise and achievement-oriented. Remember that it should be forward-looking, highlighting skills and accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to perform your target position.
You can find more information and helpful worksheets for your job search in The Get Real Guide to Your Career available in both hard copy and online formats.
Isn’t it time for you to TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER?
Till next time,

Career, Career planning, Job search, The Get Real Guide to Your Career, Uncategorized

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Taking InventoryStatistics show that a lot more of us are beginning to think about moving on - to a new job, a new company or even a totally new career.  Let me just say: Hold on a minute.
Before you begin your search for that next opportunity, set aside some time to TAKE INVENTORY. Get clear about who you are and what you want so YOU control your career rather than it controlling you. Think about what you bring to the table, what you like and don’t like, and what would be a fulfilling "next step."

Here are some areas to consider:
Skills. What are the skills and competencies that have helped you succeed in your career so far? Which of them are transferable skills that will help you contribute regardless of industry or position? Write them all down.
Values. What are the things you MUST have in a company, a position, a leader to be happy and do your best? What motivates you?
Natural talents. What are those innate abilities that keep coming up in compliments and performance reviews? “You’re a natural at…” Fill in the blank.
Interests. What do you like to do? Think large on this one. You never know when an interest you haven’t really focused on so far may lead to a new opportunity…
Job Satisfiers. Or, as I like to call them, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” What are the factors that have made your past work situations rewarding (the good), boring or frustrating (the bad) or something you never want to repeat (the ugly)?
Barriers. Here’s where you really need to “get real.” What are those internal blocks that have kept you from being all you want to be? Write ‘em down. Recognizing them is the first step in eliminating them.
Key accomplishments. Think back over your career and other areas of your life. What have you done that made a difference for your team, your department, your company, your community?
Salary requirements. In today’s job market, this is often one of the first questions asked, so it’s good to start thinking about this early. Consider what your basic expectations are and then, when you’ve determined your target market, do some research to validate your expectations.
Completing these inventories will take some time. However, you will be amazed at how much you’ll learn about yourself, and how the resulting personal career snapshot will guide you to “what’s next.”
Want to know more about how to “Get Real” about your career? Check out our online guide.
Whatever you do, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,

Career, Career planning, Job search, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

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