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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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Your Job Search Elevator Pitch

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Picture this. You’re at a networking event (as part of your job search strategy) and someone says to you, “what do you do?” Or, you’re in an interview and the first question is, “tell me about yourself.”

How do you respond? If nothing immediately comes to mind, then it’s time for you to prepare a personal “infomercial” or elevator pitch – a concise, informative statement that describes your key competencies and tells the listener what you’re looking for. You can use it when you’re looking for a job externally, or even when you’re looking for a new opportunity internally.

Your infomercial should include a brief summary of:

  • Your profession/level

  • Your capabilities and unique qualities

  • The type of opportunity you’re seeking

If you’ve done the job search inventory work that I talked about in an earlier post, you should have this information readily available. The key is to shape it into three or four short sentences that you can state in about 30 seconds. Here’s an example:

I’m an experienced learning and development professional with expertise in leadership and communications training. My particular strengths are curriculum development and facilitation. My career has spanned a number of industries. Right now I’m looking for contract opportunities in companies that want to enhance their leadership development.

As you create your infomercial, think about your potential audience. What are some key words that will resonate with them? Use visual, descriptive words that paint a picture of who you are and the unique value you bring to an organization. Be specific. The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it will be for someone to help you.

You may need to create multiple versions for different audiences. Practice each version until saying it is as natural as stating your name. Then get out there and use it! You never know where you might meet the person who has the perfect opportunity for you.

Going up?

Till next time,


Ready to “Get Real” about your career? Check out our online guide here

Get Real About Your Career – Start by Taking Inventory

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

The start of the New Year is typically when we “resolve” to make changes: eat less, exercise more, learn something new, change careers…
If a career change is on your list this year – whether it’s moving to a new career, finding new work in your current field, or creating more work/life balance – an important first step is figuring out where you are today. This is what I call Taking Inventory. Clarifying who you are and what you want will help you define, communicate and achieve your career goals. Here are 8 key areas for your self-assessment.

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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)?

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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 here.

Whatever you do, don’t stop believin’. ‘Til next time, Karen.

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

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I’ve Got a New Aptitude

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

As long as I keep referencing Bruce Springsteen, let me continue with this theme. Bruce and the E Street Band finished their “Working on a Dream” tour on November 22, 2009. Now how is that for a mantra to live by? If they are still working on a dream, then there is hope for all of us, don’t you think? Anyway, they have been playing albums front to back in concert and they closed their tour with the first album – Greetings from Asbury Park. I did not attend their last show in Buffalo, and I am not happy about it; however, that is a different story.

So, what the heck is my point? There really is one – most members of the band play multiple instruments; however, they have one core instrument they bring to the band. Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Garry Tallent on bass, Rob Bittan on piano, Little Steven Van Zandt on guitar, and so on. Each member has made a choice about the core skill he brings to the band. Do they play other instruments? Yes. And, with that said, they all understand the role they play within the E Street Band, depending on the song or the album they will be playing on stage.

We are no different than the E Street Band (except for the fact I can’t sing, nor do I play an instrument). Each of us has to understand the skill(s) we want to use in our work and the skill(s) we would prefer not to use in our work. What is important to think about is: does your current role leverage the best of your skills? Are there things you are really good at but would rather not have to use in your next opportunity? Here’s an idea…Write a list of your skills and organize it by: 1) Skills that you currently use or have used in the past and, 2) Skills you would like to use and, 3) Skills you have absolutely no interest in using.

Let’s continue our work with The Get Real Guide to Your Career and take a walk down memory lane. Really think about those skills you used that gave you energy, made you want to be the best you could be, skills that you really enjoyed. Was it coaching, customer interface, influencing, hiring and staffing, creating, selling products or services, project management, training? Well, you get the idea. Keep the list going and add to it. Once you get the list completed, go back and rank the top 10 skills you would like to use. This list will help you determine what you might be interested in doing next. If there are skills on the list that you need to develop, now could be a good time to start that. An example – you really like project management and want to get more proficient in it. There are classes you can take, or software you can learn. Spend some time gaining proficiency and then you will have one more skill to add to your tool box.

I am a big proponent of being very clear about the skills you want to use and the skills you do not want to use. Be certain the “don’t want to use” are on your list. This doesn’t mean that you absolutely will refuse to use these skills. It just means that they will be on the bottom of your list.

My best example of this is when I was on the board of a non-profit. We were bringing a global conference to San Francisco. I was in charge of all the speakers’ requirements for their presentations – the equipment they would need for their presentation, the room set up, the materials they needed at each seat, what time they needed to show up, how long they had to present, etc., etc. Now, I am a very organized person, which is why they put me in charge of the speakers. I had color-coded spreadsheets, I had cell phones going, I was a detail maniac. I did this for 4 days. At the end of it, I wanted to cry (in fact I am sure I did cry multiple times throughout the conference). The detail was making me completely crazy. Every little thing had to be perfect – the speakers were counting on me and the participants were counting on me. Needless to say, all went very well. Now, is that anything I want to do for a living? Absolutely not. As mentioned, I am organized; however, enough already! If I tell people about this skill, that is the only thing they will hear, and the next thing I know I will be running conferences. I promise you, I do not want to do that even if I do it well. It just doesn’t fulfill me. It completely depletes me, and makes me exhausted. So that is what I mean about the skills you do not want to use and why it is so important to spend time thinking through this exercise.

Remember, this is about using the skills you want to use and the skills that will help you do the best work possible. This exercise is well worth your time. As you are looking for a new work opportunity, you need to be able to articulate – very clearly - your top skills. As always, have some fun with it, and think about who you are today and what you want for tomorrow! Our PeopleThink web site is filled with resources and articles to help guide you in the direction that is best for YOU. peoplethink/resources/

Till the next time…


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