Yoga for the Mind
With so much focus in today’s society on physical wellness, ICON would like to promote yoga stretching for your mind.
Have you wanted to improve your Excel skills or overcome your fear of public speaking? Have you always wanted to write a novel? Many times we focus our attention on improving our skillsets that are directly related to our job and do not think about those indirect skills that can ultimately make us stronger, more well-rounded employees. So today, we here at ICON recommend stretching yourself.
The good news is that you do not have to spend a lot of money to pursue your interests. Groupon has discounts for online courses daily. Regularly, there are Microsoft Office courses, accounting courses, and so on. You can also contact your local community colleges and review their online or campus-based classes. Another great resource is a local library. Many libraries have electronic catalogues where books with information, tips and tricks can be borrowed electronically for several weeks. Of course, if you would like to spend a bit more money, you can attend a professional seminar.
You might be asking yourself, how will a creative writing course help my career? Strong writing skills can set you apart, from business proposals to marketing initiatives. You will be surprised how many co-workers will turn to you for help when they realize that you have amazing writing skills.
Perhaps you do not currently use Excel in your job, but you want to move up and Excel prowess is important for the managerial role. By studying outside of work hours, you will be one-step ahead in securing that promotion.
Finally, being able to stand up in front of a crowd and provide an engaging talk on any topic is an incredible skill and one that will get you noticed. So take that public speaking class and set yourself up for leadership success.
Don’t wait, create a plan and start that novel, enroll in that Excel class or public speaking course. Take the time to pursue an interest, even if it does not seem related to your current position. At the end of the day, it will make you happier, feel accomplished that you followed through on a goal, and will make you a more skilled applicant or employee.
Posted by: Karen House
How to Write a Great Cover Letter
We have discussed a number of topics in our Motivation Monday series, from resume tips and tricks to the importance of networking. Today we focus on the all-important cover letter. With some time and critical thinking, anyone can stand apart from a sea of applicants.
While you may have a general template to start with for your cover letter, it is not a one size fits all document. You need to customize your cover letter, tailoring it to the role for which you are applying.
To begin, thoroughly review the job posting. Notice what key words or recurring themes stand out. Sometimes a posting will reiterate the same skillset in different ways. For example, a posting may not specifically state, “requires customer service experience.” However, there may phrases such as “must have excellent interpersonal skills” or “must be a problem solver.” Identify those key words and themes. Also, pay attention to any specific skills or experiences the company requires, such as particular technology systems. Look for what may not be obvious at first glance, all the while, keeping in mind what is explicitly stated.
Next, think about what experience or skills you have that address what you took away from the job description. What specific examples of utilizing those skills can you think of? In our customer service example, an experience where you went the extra mile to help a customer might be a good picture to paint in your cover letter. Tell that story. Remember, this is a way to showcase something that is not already stated in your resume. It can also allow you to emphasize a specific skill that is listed on your resume by highlighting an interesting example.
Also, take some time to research the company and drawing one or at most two connections. Are you familiar with the industry? Maybe you have indirect experience with the company or industry. Think outside of the box. You want to express your excitement for what the company does. It can help to look at past press releases, the executives’ profiles, and everything on the company’s website.
Finally, think about the reader. Think about how to keep your cover letter engaging. Ask other professionals, friends, or family to read the letter and provide honest feedback. Also, do not forget about grammar and punctuation. Spellcheck is amazing, but it is not 100%; read your cover letter and check for grammar and punctuation. Then set it aside and come back to it again with a fresh set of eyes.
Your cover letter is a chance to show who you are as a professional. It is a chance for you to be creative and engaging. Remember, look carefully at the job description, identify recurring themes or keywords, do your research, and ask for honest feedback before sending it.
Posted by: Karen House
Let Others Sing Your Praises - Using References to Win Jobs
When is the last time you reviewed your professional references list? When it comes time for that all important reference check by a potential employer, it is wise to use relevant, professional references. This is your chance to confirm your skillset with examples from those you have worked with, whether at a job or in a professional manner outside of work.
USE PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES
Personal references are okay if the application or hiring manager asks specifically for a personal reference in addition to professional references. Otherwise, you come across as a stronger candidate if you use credible people who can speak to your skillsets, your work style and ethic, and/or your leadership abilities. A former manager is preferable, but you can also consider colleagues, especially if you worked in a team setting or on a project together. They can speak to your ability to work within a team environment.
MATCH YOUR REFERENCES WITH THE ROLE
It is important that your references can speak to the skillsets you have that pertain to the role for which you are applying. The more on point your reference is with providing information that will prove valuable in your new role, the stronger a proponent of you they are able to be. If you are a recent college graduate, consider professors or those who can discuss how you helped an organization through an internship.
THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Besides your standard work relationships, if you are a part of a professional organization, you might also consider asking the president or a fellow member to serve as a reference. They can discuss your motivational drive, as well as your thirst for continuing education in your field, and how you give back to your professional community.
Have your references lined up ahead of time. When it comes time to submit them to your prospective employer, make sure to call your references again. Let them know whom they can expect to receive a call from and for what role you are applying. Also, let them know if they need to highlight specifically any of your skills. It is the professional way to approach references and gives them a chance to think about your value add to a new team and organization.
In summary, references provide support to what you state on your resume. Choosing appropriate, professional references who can speak to your abilities relevant to the role for which you are applying can make you stand out amongst the final list of candidates. So take a look at your reference list today. Even if you are not actively looking for a new opportunity, it never hurts to be prepared. You never know when an ICON recruiter might have the perfect role to help you advance your career!
Posted by Karen House
As a professional, you most likely have ideas on a regular basis of how to improve your job or your company, from process improvement initiatives to increasing employee engagement and retention. While thinking about ideas is wonderful, the ideas can only come to fruition if you speak up and engage other people.
Many people are terrified of public speaking, but we do not necessarily mean speak up in the sense that you need to make a presentation to your entire organization or start a campaign. For now, we simply mean discuss your ideas with your manager or the appropriate leader within your company. Do not allow fear to stop you from sharing something that could make a huge impact to your department and company.
We have mentioned confidence in several of our Motivational Monday articles and this is another example of how you can boost your professional profile and self-esteem. Not only are you adding value to your company, but you will also walk away proud of the fact that you shared an idea or concern with your company’s leadership. You took the leap.
Regardless of whether or not your idea actually pans out, voicing your ideas shows your dedication to your company and your career, and your critical thinking and creative abilities. It can also be the kernel of an initiative that drives long term value for the company. When everyone shares their ideas on how to improve their organization, nothing but good things can come from it.
So today, we urge you to Speak Up. Talk to your leaders about your ideas. We promise you will not regret it.
Posted by Karen House
Professional Certification - Is it worth the effort?
Whether you are a Project Manager, Information Technology guru, or Human Resources professional, most career fields offer professional certifications through professional organizations or specific certifying agencies.
Holding a professional certification shows that you are well-rounded, interested in your field, and have knowledge that has not been gained through on-the-job training. It also shows ambition and drive. Once you obtain your certification, most programs require a minimum number of continuing education hours to re-certify upon expiration. Your certification shows your dedication to your field and to continued education.
So where do you begin? Start with your current resources. Talk to your manager, colleagues, and professional contacts. Ask them for recommendations about what certifications to pursue. Talk to your Human Resources department. Ask them what certifications are required or recommended to advance in your role. Join a professional organization to expand your network. Attend a networking event and talk to other professionals in your field. Lastly, just pay attention. What credentials do you see referenced in other professionals’ titles? This can provide insight into the certifications most appropriate for your field of expertise.
Once you decide on a certification to pursue, you need to decide whether self-study or a preparation course is most appropriate for you. Again, this is where talking to professionals in your field can help you make the best choice.
A professional certification cannot replace experience, but most certification programs require a minimum amount of experience to qualify to take the test. Your certification can enhance your resume, highlighting your dedication to your field. It is also a confidence boost. Imagine receiving that passing score and putting those credentials in your signature line.
So take the leap today. Start talking to people. Do some Internet research. Sign up for that prep course or schedule the exam. Today, make a commitment to set yourself up for professional success!
Posted by: Karen House
Mapping Your Career Strategy
LinkedIn and Facebook have become popular sites for recruiters to source talent. You have probably received at least a message or two from a recruiter about an open role or a request to connect. Particularly on LinkedIn, recruiters find you because of the information that you place in your career history section. Think of LinkedIn as a place for your mini resume. Many times LinkedIn members, especially those not actively searching for a role, ignore the messages or decline the connection requests. ICON recommends that you consider accepting the connection request or sending a note back to the recruiter to bolster your long-term job search strategy. Here are a couple of reasons why:
Networking: Accepting the request or engaging in a brief conversation with the recruiter is a good chance for you as a professional to network. Recruiters that contact you very likely specialize in your field of work and are a wealth of knowledge as it pertains to industry hiring trends, benefits trends, and much more. If you have an industry question, they can be an excellent resource for you. Whether you are looking for your next opportunity or just curious about what the market looks like; generally, a recruiter can tell you what is going on. Ask them questions on the market, competitors, trends, anything that you want to know about.
Industry Information: On a very similar note, the companies that the recruiters are linked to often offer valuable information through blog posts and articles that are relevant to your field. Recruiters are usually the first to repost their organization’s informational pieces and it is a no-cost, easy way for you to educate yourself about your field of interest, job hunting, and other career advice.
Relationship Building: Lastly, when the time comes for your next career opportunity, you already have a relationship with someone who can help. Starting a job search is easier when you already have an established network of contacts. It can boost your motivation and self-esteem to know that you have a place to start the search process. And you never know; you may see a role that you are interested in and low and behold, you are already connected to that position’s recruiter.
So next time you receive an invitation to connect from a recruiter on LinkedIn, or elsewhere, consider giving the individual a moment of your time. They can be a valuable resource for your long-term job hunting strategy and a sounding board when you start your search for your next role.
Posted by: Karen House
CONTINUING EDUCATION PAYS OFF
No matter what field you work in, your area of expertise should be ever evolving and strengthening. Whether you are in human resources with constantly changing employment laws or in IT where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, continuing education is key to career advancement. Top performers and leaders know the importance of continuing education to develop their knowledge base. So where do you start?
Almost every field has at least one professional organization. They are great resources for finding continuing education opportunities. Professional organizations have everything from networking events where you can talk to other professionals about industry challenges and trends to formal seminars focusing on a topic affecting your industry.
Another great place is through local community colleges and universities. If you want to brush up on your accounting skills, consider taking a course through your local college. Universities also offer many online courses so you may also consider taking a course remotely.
No matter which direction you go to boost your knowledge base, taking the initiative shows dedication and drive to your employer. So on this Monday; give some thought to what continuing education opportunities might most benefit you in your career.
Posted by: Karen House
THREE WAYS TO REFRESH YOUR RESUME
If you are searching for your next role, you will want to have an up-to-date version of your resume. There are also many other reasons to keep a current version on your computer or phone. Whether a role within your organization becomes available or your marketing department requests a copy of your resume to include with business proposals, you want to have it ready to pass along.
When refreshing your resume, try to keep it to one page. Now is the perfect time to look at the newer styles of resumes. Many new templates have moved away from Times New Roman as the standard font, are more visually appealing, and include a self-assessment section. Present the information in as succinct a way as possible. You do not want the reader to feel as if they are reviewing a novel. Put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know quickly whether this person has the education, experience, and/or skillset you are looking for?
Second, check your grammar. When you receive a new role, your first instinct is probably to add a new section on your resume summarizing the position. However, you want to ensure you change the verb tense of the details of your past role to past tense. For example, after leaving Company A, you will want to change “develop software” to “developed software”. Showing that you took the time to review your resume details says a lot about you before you even walk in the door.
Finally, reviewing your resume is a great time to reflect on your professional achievements. Do not just list your job duties. Quantify what you did to help your company. Did you bring in new clients? Did you implement a program that increased employee retention? If so, quantify how much with either a percentage or dollar value. This is your first chance to tell the reader how you were an asset to your company.
In addition, thinking about your accomplishments can be a serious morale booster. When you start reflecting upon all that you have achieved, you will most certainly notice a boost in your professional self-esteem. It can be especially powerful to see your biggest accomplishments outlined on a computer screen or piece of paper.
In summary, take a few minutes this week to look at your resume. Make sure it is current and provides readers with the most useful information in the most concise way possible, check your grammar and punctuation details, and, most of all, enjoy the boost in esteem from thinking about all you have accomplished in your professional career. Then, click here to start applying to the job of your dreams.
Posted by: Karen House
YIKES! DID I REALLY USE THAT PHOTO?
When is the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile picture? If it is more than three years old, it is time for an update. What picture are you using? If it is noticeable a photo of you with friends, a selfie, or on vacation, it is time to freshen up that look and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Department and big box stores often have a photography studio offering inexpensive photo packages where you can have a professional headshot taken. You might also reach out to a university that offers photography classes or maybe you have a friend that is a stellar photographer. Professional photos do not have to break the bank.
After you choose your photographer, think of your clothing. The good news is that you do not need a full suit. Since it is a headshot, a suit jacket works. You want to look polished and professional because your profile picture indicates how serious of a candidate you are. If you do not have a jacket, you can borrow from a friend, look for store sales, or check out a thrift store.
Of course, you will probably have several pictures to choose from after your photo shoot. Sometimes, the act of cropping a photo makes all the difference. As the images on Linkedin are small, be sure and crop the photo so that it only includes your head and shoulders. If you are not sure of which photograph to choose, ask friends, colleagues, or upload a couple to a website where the public votes on which picture to choose. Yes, there are websites out there that offer this free service. Photofeeler is just one example.
Now that you have taken your photo, chosen a picture, and uploaded it to your LinkedIn profile (or other professional profile), by this one simple step, you have let potential eployers know that you are a viable candidate. A professional photo conveys how important your career is to you. It shows you were thoughtful and took the time to put your best foot forward.
A simple refresh of your LinkedIn profile does not have to be time intensive or expensive and it can make a big difference when potential employers are viewing your profile. On this Motivation Monday, we recommend you make that photography appointment and get ready to secure a great job.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to stand out in the crowd and land the job of your dreams!
Posted by: Karen House
VOLUNTEERING YOUR WAY TO A NEW JOB
When looking for a job, volunteering can boost more than your resume. It is a great conversation starter and don’t be surprised if your interviewer asks about it. It is a positive experience you can discuss. You can even probably answer some of the interview questions with responses about your volunteer work, not just discuss past career roles. This can make you a unique and memorable candidate. We want to stress that community service is not about making yourself look good. It is truly about helping others. But while helping others, you just might find it helps you improve yourself.
You can also boost your specific job skills through volunteer work. If you work in marketing, help your local animal shelter put out social media posts to get some of their furry residents adopted. If you are a top-notch administrative professional, see if you can help a charity with their back office paperwork. If you only want an opportunity to give back, help a local food bank, drive for Meals on Wheels, or help unload donations at the Salvation Army. There are so many opportunities in every community to give back.
Volunteering also gives you the chance to meet other people, to make new friends, and to network. You never know, that co-volunteer might know of the perfect job opening. Leads for new positions often come from people directly outside of your network.
Finally, giving back allows you to step away from the stresses of your everyday life, to put things in perspective, and you might find it helps boost your confidence. So look for an organization in your community, rolls up your sleeves, and get out there and help. The benefits of volunteering are endless!
Posted by: Karen House
AM I WASTING MY TIME?
It wasn’t very long ago that individuals searching for a job flipped through the “Help Wanted” section in the local newspaper or looked at magazines for open roles and then mailed their resume or walked into the company office and personally handed the receptionist their resume. Of course, with the Internet and all it offers, those days have passed. The question now is “Should I use a job board” and if so, “How do I stand out among hundreds of other job applicants.” ICON is here to tell you that yes, job boards work and here a few tips for making yourself the star applicant.
- Research – Once you see a role that you are interested in, start by researching the company. What is the company’s mission statement and core values? Do they align with your career ideals? What are its new interests, products, and what are the company’s competitors doing? You can find great information on the company’s website, including their press release section, through Google news searches, and if a public company, on a stock research site.
- Put your research into action – Take all of your research and include it in your cover letter. It can be tempting, especially with the ease of clicking on a button to submit your resume from your phone, to skip this step. But a thoughtful cover letter can be what makes you stand out. This is your opportunity to shine as a candidate and make the hiring manager know that you are serious about the role and the company. Tie back why you are the perfect fit for the role based upon what you now know about the organization, whether you have worked in a similar industry or a similar entity type, such as a publicly-traded company or a privately-held entity.
- Take a good and hard look at your resume – With hundreds and even thousands of resumes submitted to a role, you want your resume to rise to the top. Make your resume look fresh, easy to read, and with all the information easy to find. Try to choose a modern font and layout. There are many free resume-building tools online. Create a few versions and show them to friends, mentors, and colleagues. Ask them which resume would make them want to know more about you. Oh, and do not forget the basics. Check your grammar and punctuation. Do not only rely on spell check to catch errors. Read your resume aloud slowly. Does everything flow?
- Take an even harder look at your resume – Almost all companies and recruiters use a form of software that searches and ranks all the resumes against the job description. Tailor your resume to the role you are applying for. Look at the key skillsets and language used in the job posting. Are they looking for someone with extensive Microsoft Office experience? If you are in expert in the software, say so and related it to a particular position. Tie back the skillsets you have that align with the skillsets the company is looking for. This means that each job application may require a slightly different resume.
- Network – Do you know someone who works for the organization, perhaps someone in a professional group you are associated with? Perhaps you don’t know someone that works for the organization, but think outside the box. Maybe you know someone who has worked with the hiring manager in the past and can give you some tips on his or her professional style? Don’t forget to talk to friends and even neighbors.
We understand that these steps take time and searching for a new job is a full time job within itself. It is tempting to download your resume to your phone and hit send to every role you see, but if you really want to stand out and get shortlisted to the second phase, then you need to put in the work ahead of time. Showing you took time to understand as much as you could about the company and really thought about whether you would be a good fit for the role can set you apart from everyone else.
Applicants secure jobs that are posted on job boards every day. There wouldn’t be so many boards on the market if they didn’t work. Therefore, be smart and thoughtful about the application process. Take the extra time, write a cover letter and resume geared toward the company and particular role, and network. It can definitely help you land the interview for your dream job!
LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB
Think of the job search as a project and create a plan. Certain steps in the plan will bring you more success than others. As with any project, from remodeling a bathroom to planning a trip around the world, there can be setbacks or unexpected advances. Here are some tips to get you started.
Why you? – Spend time examining what makes you special. Examine your key attributes, qualifications and talents. Look for jobs that match these qualities. As you learn what makes you special, your confidence will show and you will be more likely to secure the job that you want.
- Clean up – Review your resume, Linkedin profile and other social media accounts. Update your information and include a professional photograph. Be sure to smile.
- Promote yourself – Once you know what you want, reach out via social mediaand friends to let people know that you are looking for a new position and the type of position that you would like.
- Search for open positions – Look at staffing firm and job boards for positions. Click here to see ICON’s openings. If there is a talent community, join the community to receive notices about upcoming jobs.
- Network – Once you find jobs that you are interested in, spend time searching for a contact in the company. Linkedin is a great source to help show you possible contacts within your target company. Reach out to the contact and ask to meet or chat for 15 minutes so that you can learn more about the company.
- Don’t forget to say thank you - If a company contact sets up a time to chat with you about the organization, remember to "say" thank you. Following the meeting or phone call, send an email thanking the contact for his/her time, reiterate your interest in the company, and highlight why you are the right fit for the organization. A simple thank you can set you apart from the competition and help get you a formal interview.
- Practice – If you have a former colleague or mentor, ask him/her to stage a practice interview with you. It will help you feel prepared, which will in turn boost your confidence walking into an interview when you do land one. The saying is true, "practice makes perfect."
- Keep your chin up – It’s a numbers game. You definitely will not hear back from all jobs to which you apply. If you don’t hear back after a period of time, send an email or make a phone call to check on the status and then move on.
- Focus – Looking for a new job is a full time job. There is no way around it. Put the hours in and you will find that new position.
Remember to check back with us for future tips and tricks in the employment world. Coming up … when you do land that interview, how do prepare to also land the job.
ICON TIPS TO CRUSH YOUR INTERVIEW
We are often asked about interviewing, how to stand out, and make the interview go well. Our advice is as follows:
- One week to one day before the interview, practice your responses to core interviewing questions, such as “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your greatest strengths?,” etc. Have a friend ask you the questions so that you become used to reacting spontaneously to questions. Have the friend judge your body language too. There are great books and lists of questions on the internet, use these questions to practice, practice, practice until you become comfortable and fluent.
- Three days to one day before the interview, do your research on the company, the position, and the person that is interviewing you. Find out if you have any connections to the company. Look at their website and news articles on the company and the industry. Check linkedin.com to see if you have any connections to the company. If you do, let them know that you are going to the interview. Ask them to put in a good word for you.
- Prepare two to five smart questions about the company and position based upon your research. There is a ton of resources on the web for good questions to ask an interviewer. If you will be interviewing with multiple people in different functional roles, then think about questions that would make sense for each person that you will meet.
- Plan your interview attire the night before, if in doubt about what to wear, ask us or dress up a level.
- Bring copies of the resume that you submitted for the position, your questions in a notebook and a pen.
- Arrive 20-30 minutes early. Do not go in yet. Sit in a quiet location for a little while and take a deep breath, be calm. We tell you to plan to arrive early because anything can happen. Your car can break down, you can have a hard time finding the building, you can have a hard time finding a place to park, etc. Anything can happen. Giving yourself the gift of 20-30 extra minutes will allow yourself time to be calm and prepared.
- Enter the location 10-15 minutes before your appointment time. Be nice to the first person greeting you. If their name is noticeable, remember it for the next time you go back. Smile. Treat everyone you meet with respect.
- Ask for a business card from the interviewers.
- During the interview, remember your body language, be authentic and positive. Tie your answers back to your practiced skills and accomplishments.
- Be concise; answer the question but don’t ramble. Most people can’t concentrate longer than a minute or so and this includes the person interviewing you. Keep it impactful. Answer the question and then give them the opportunity to tell you if they want to hear more by ending with, “Would you like me to give you more information/details about ……?”
- Do not speak negatively about your previous employers.
- Ask questions as appropriate. Ask about the next step in the process.
- Tell them you are interested in the job. This is very important.
- Send a personalized thank you letter and express your interest in the role again and why.
If ICON has asked you to take a software or programming language skills test, our top advice is to study for it. Doing well on a software skills test, such as Excel, can be the deciding factor for whether you are offered the job or not. Therefore, practice, practice, practice.
Even if you use Microsoft Word or Excel every day, it will benefit you to review some of the tutorials found on YouTube and take a practice test or two. Most skills test are judging not only your mastery of the basic functions but also if you know the higher-level functions and commands.
There are many websites available offering free practice tests of Excel, Microsoft Word, Power Point and Indesign Creative Suite. Additional, there are websites devoted to testing your programming skills in C+, SAP, Java and many other languages.
Set aside some time before taking the actual test and study, it will greatly enhance your chances of landing that new job.