Job Search and Housecleaning: An Odd Couple?

I am not necessarily recommending that you start your job search planning by literally cleaning your house, but the combination of the two activities is not such an odd couple as you might think at first. Whether you are the kind of person who finds housecleaning (or cleaning in general) therapeutic–I am not!–you could find it useful to consider some of the key aspects of housecleaning and how those might translate to an effective job search. Bear with me for a few moments–there really is a method to my madness.

What Job Searching and Housecleaning Have in Common

Job searching and housecleaning actually have several aspects in common. Here are just a few:

  • You will find it difficult, if not impossible, to do a good job of housecleaning with the least amount of effort required to achieve that if you start without a clear, achievable goal in mind. And, no, a spotlessly clean house that will stay in great shape for a long time is not that goal.

    By the same token, landing the job of a lifetime that you will love–and keep–forever is most likely not a realistic goal for your job search. Doesn’t mean the stars couldn’t miraculously align and drop it in your lap; just don’t pin all your hopes on that! Set a goal you are willing to work for.

  • While spring cleaning has long been an accepted concept for one’s home, my preference is for end-of-the-year cleaning and organizing. Even if the Christmas holidays tend to be frantic where you are, there’s usually a breathing space after the holiday and before the new year festivities begin.

    That short break can be a good time to take stock of what most needs to be done and the steps required to make it happen by the first of the year. This is true both for your living space and for your job search. Take advantage of the opportunity.

  • Having the right tool for the job is essential. For example, you can waste a lot of time and not accomplish much if you try to clean the floors with a toothbrush and a glass of water!

    In the case of your job search, the tool could be something as basic as a good working computer with the capability to search for job possibilities, connect with key people on LinkedIn, research companies and places to live where you want to work, and more. It might also, of course, be something even more essential, such as making sure you have access to your critical documents (performance reviews, your updated resume, etc.) and don’t have them out of reach–on your computer at work (your resume should never be there anyway).

  • Reaching perfection is probably unattainable; keeping it in the unlikely event that you can reach it is even farther out of reach. The house won’t stay clean on its own, for one thing. However, if you work consistently on minimizing the buildup of clutter and establishing some kind of routine, keeping it clean becomes easier.

    In your job search, this translates into steps such as organizing the materials and the work space you can dedicate to conducting the search, tracking your “to do” list so you stay on top of critical actions, and treating the job search as a job in itself–that is, with a firm commitment to persevering until you reach your goal.

Job Search and Housecleaning–A Word of Caution

Resist the temptation to clean house as a way to avoid focusing on your job search. Some people would rather clean house–or even go to the dentist–than work on their job search essentials. If you’re inclined to be one of those, remind yourself that a clean house won’t pay its own mortgage!


Job Search 2013: Not for the Faint of Heart

Based on what we have been seeing over the past year–and more–job search in 2013 will not be for the faint of heart. If you want or need to plan and conduct a job search next year, you will need to have several things, not the least of which is enough determination to overcome the numerous obstacles that could and possibly will pop up to block your path to a new job or career.

To quote Mr. William Shakespeare: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” In colloquial terms, you can’t complete the dash for home plate if you never even get to first base. And, as Sydney J. Harris (an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, who died in 1986) tells us: “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Job Search 2013: Borrow Nike’s Slogan and “Do It”

I recently read a thought-provoking book by Peter McWilliams called Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts. In fact, that’s where I first saw the quote from Mr. Harris. It’s the kind of book you need to read and then re-read–at least once or twice–to get the full benefit. Also, it probably makes the book more effective if you do the exercises it provides. I have to confess, I haven’t done that yet; however, I initially read the book for pleasure, rather than as part of an action plan for self-improvement. However, I do want to share McWilliams’ view of what constitutes a career: “You have a career or profession when what you love doing most is what you also get paid for doing.” That’s how I feel about the work I do with and for my clients, and it’s how I sincerely want them to feel about the work they do for current and future employers.

Countless obstacles could stand in your way to a successful job search or career in 2013. No one promised the search would be easy–or if someone did, he/she was deceiving you, either intentionally or unintentionally. However, you can’t afford to let obstacles intimidate you into spinning your wheels or backpedaling, if achieving your goal is essential to your well-being–emotionally, physically, professionally or all of the above.

5 Job Search Tips for 2013

  • Outline a plan that will have you up-and-running by January 1 (if not before).
  • Build flexibility into your plan–remember that obstacles can crop up unexpectedly.
  • Marshal your job search resources–people, time, money, whatever else you might need. If you don’t have all your ducks lined up yet, start working on that now.
  • Take a quick look backward (over this past year) to see where you veered off track, slipped up in some way or otherwise didn’t make the progress you had aimed for. Use that quick review as a launchpad for your 2013 planning–starting with what needs to change and when.
  • Allow yourself opportunities to recharge your batteries between now and the end of the year–quiet time with family, a trip you’ve been putting off, a good book you want to read or a movie you’ve been waiting to see, whatever will rejuvenate your energy and strengthen your ability to surmount any obstacles you encounter in your job search 2013 activities.

My Wish for Your Job Search 2013 Success

Actually, it’s more than a wish. It’s an affirmation. I believe you can do much more than you think you can, even if you don’t always see a clear path at the start. Give yourself credit for that…and don’t give up if the going gets rough. Persistence can pay off when you least expect it.


More Career Success Tips from Einstein

Einstein was such a great source of inspiration for career success tips that I could not fit everything into one post, so here is the second and final installment. Note: Einstein passed on 50+ years ago, but his words of wisdom are just as relevant now as they were then. Some things are timeless.

  1. If someone can enjoy marching to music in rank and file, I can feel only contempt for him; he has received his large brain by mistake, a spinal cord would have been enough. The phrase “think outside the box” has been done to death, but that’s basically what Einstein is referring to here. If you don’t distinguish yourself from others who do what you do–show how you are better, more innovative, and so on–you aren’t using your thinking-power to full advantage.
  2. When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about. Focusing heavily or almost entirely on yourself might fool you into thinking that’s the most important aspect of your career success. However, if you make that the key point of your career management or job search and don’t take other potentially important factors into account, you could miss opportunities to make a valuable contribution to something greater than yourself.
  3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. When your career path is smooth and work is going without a hiccup (if that ever happens!), you might not see a lot of opportunities to excel. However, when you and/or your company are facing tough challenges, that’s the test that shows what you’re really made of and gives you a chance to shine. Make the most of that opportunity.
  4. Never underestimate your own ignorance. One of my favorite sayings from long ago was: “I’m not conceited, because conceit is a fault and I don’t have any.” If you assume you know more than you actually do or ignore signs in your job or career that suggest it would be a good idea to double-check what you “know,” you risk disaster. Accept that you might not know everything you need to know and take steps to increase your knowledge in key areas.
  5. When all think alike, no one thinks very much. Einstein is suggesting that you think for yourself and don’t just move in lockstep with others without considering whether that is the best thing to do. For instance, if innovation is a key concept in your career success, it’s imperative that you consider different ways of thinking–avoid the “but we’ve always done it that way…we’ve never done that before” mentality.
  6. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. In life and in your career management, you can’t afford to run in place, much less fail to run at all, if you want to maximize your potential.
  7. The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. Prospective employers will be looking hardest at what you can do for (give to) them and much less (if at all) at what they can do for you. Your strongest selling point is based on the value you can bring to employers.
  8. It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Of course, Einstein actually was that smart, but the point is that he refused to give up when faced with major challenges that stood in the way of achieving his goals. Your career success could hinge on possessing that same degree of determination.

“Bonus” Career Success Tip

Few people will care as much about your career success as you do. You don’t have to work on it alone, but you do need to lead the charge.


Career Success Tips from Einstein

Albert Einstein never presented himself as an expert on career success, in spite of the fact that he had a very successful career. However, I thought it would be fun to explore some of his sayings as if they were career success tips. So here goes the first batch of tips:

  1. Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age: Don’t spend too much time polishing the steps you need to take to achieve good career management. Get clarity on where you want the steps to take you.
  2. The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible: Understand the difference in importance between solid ideals with lasting value and the short-term gratification that human measures of career success might bring.
  3. The important thing is not to stop questioning: Accepting information at face value–especially when you don’t know the reliability of the source–can sabotage your career success. Question it!
  4. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results: If something you’ve tried to implement in your job search or career management plan isn’t working, try doing it differently or doing something else.
  5. Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted: This kind of goes along with #2 above. For example, money (salary, etc.) isn’t unimportant–it’s how you pay your bills. However, a great salary for a job with a relentlessly high stress level could make you unbearably miserable–or worse.
  6. The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them: If your job search (or your current job) isn’t going well, look beyond and above the actions you’ve been taking. Maybe there’s something you’re not doing–or not doing enough of–that would improve the results you’re seeing.
  7. If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut: Success in your career (as in your life) can depend a lot on how you balance what you put into your work and your play–and how well you know when to stay quiet and not say something that will land you in hot water!

More Career Success Tips from Einstein Coming Soon

It will take me at least one more blog post to cover the quotations I selected, so you should see more career success tips from Einstein in just a couple of days–maybe in time for Thanksgiving! In case you don’t, I’ll just wish you a happy Thanksgiving now–however you choose to celebrate it.


Cover Letters–Do They Matter?

The debate rages on as to whether cover letters are useful or a waste of time/effort/money. At a conference I attended in October, a panel of 4 hiring managers and recruiters gave a less-than-enthusiastic response when asked whether they read the cover letters that accompanied applicant resumes. If I remember correctly, one of them indicated that he did read them (at least part of the time), but I think the other panelists basically said they did not. On the other hand, I and many of my colleagues have seen our clients achieve a positive result from submitting a well-written cover letter with their resume. So…who reads cover letters, and is sending them a wasted effort?

Cover Letters–Who Reads Them?

It’s pretty well impossible for you to know ahead of time whether the person who receives your submission is going to read the cover letter. In the past, I’ve heard some managers say they always read the cover letter because it gives them another insight into the candidate, while other managers will say they read the cover letter if they like what they see on the resume–and still others will turn thumbs down on the whole idea of cover letters. In other words, the reactions are spread out all over the map! Unfortunately, that’s not particularly helpful to you as a job seeker.

My take on this is that it could be a good idea to assume someone will read the letter and send one with your resume for each job opportunity you’re really interested in pursuing. If your letter is well done, you won’t hurt your chances for consideration and might increase the odds in your favor. That’s worth making an effort to write a cover letter yourself or–if you’re paying a professional to create the letter–investing some money in it, as a potential aid to your career success.

5 Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Address and send it to “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir [or Madam]” or anything else that’s equally generic. Do your utmost to find out who should ideally receive the letter and direct it to him or her. After all, how much attention do you pay to mail you receive that’s addressed to “Occupant”?
  2. Ramble on about why you’re looking for a new job and what you’ve done over the last 10-15 years (possibly described in excruciating detail). Honestly, no one cares about all that but you–especially if it means reading a dense one-page or (heaven forbid) two-page cover letter!
  3. Put important information in the cover letter that isn’t in the resume and should be. Remember, we’re not even sure the recipient is going to read your letter, so why risk putting a critical piece of information only in there?
  4. Send a generic cover letter that doesn’t in some way link the needs of the employer with the value you can offer–the problems you can help solve, the opportunities you can generate (revenue, profit, competitive edge, etc.), and so on.
  5. Wrap up the letter with a general-wording paragraph that doesn’t indicate your interest in arranging an interview to discuss specific needs and your ability to meet them. The primary purpose of a cover letter is to ask for an interview.

Undoubtedly, these aren’t the only cover letter mistakes job seekers can make–and have made–but they can give you some clues as to what to avoid.

Good and Bad Cover Letters

Good cover letters can matter and are usually worth doing; bad cover letters are worse than no cover letter at all. Make sure you know the difference between the two!


Job Search Winners and Losers

I just finished reading a great blog post by Tim Mushey (Sell-Lead-Succeed), and it inspired me to think about the idea of winning versus losing attitudes in a job search situation. As Tim notes in his blog, there’s a world of difference between playing to win and playing to avoid a loss. (If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to read his post on playing to win.)

A Winning Attitude in Your Job Search

Tim wasn’t specifically talking about the job search as such, but his comments certainly apply to it. Here’s just a sample of what he shared: “Playing to win exudes confidence. There is nothing that can get in the way of the team and victory….On the other hand, the team playing not to lose exudes tentativeness. Their primary goal is to not make mistakes and look foolish in front of teammates and coaches….’Playing not to lose’ is a career limiting decision (CLD). You will feel safe, and your results may be consistent, but your true potential will not be achieved.”

Before you actually launch yourself into a job search, take some time to consider how you are approaching it. What kind of mental attitude describes you at this point? Suppose your actions are motivated by desperation–such as a feeling that the deck is stacked against you and you have to be careful not to put a foot wrong, while at the same time you need to do everything humanly possible to get a job fast. (“I need a job–any job–yesterday!“)

How far toward your goal do you think that attitude will propel you? In reality, the answer is: probably not very far. You are actually stacking the deck against yourself, by unintentionally harboring a losing attitude instead of a winning attitude in your job search. Alternatively, you might be somewhat less desperate but still tentative in your approach, and the outcome could be just as unsatisfactory.

Job Search Winners and Losers–Who Are They?

Job search winners include those people who follow the sentiment expressed in this Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” If you’re one of those, you know you might miss your goal more than once and yet be able to achieve it in the end, so you refuse to accept defeat as an unavoidable outcome. You look for new, different or better steps to take that have the potential to put you on the right path–and you take those steps.

Job search losers include those people who think they need to be so very careful not to put themselves “out there” or make an effort that carries a high element of risk. If you see yourself slipping into this category, I encourage you to keep in mind the following quotation from the late humorist James Thurber: “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.” A certain degree of caution is sometimes called for, but make sure you don’t carry it to extremes. You could be psyching yourself out of a potential victory–that is, closing the door on a new job opportunity because you let excessive caution (sometimes known as fear) hold you back.

By the way, the difference between job search winners and losers can be defined as a very thin line. You might move from loser to winner more easily than you think. More than likely, making that effort is worth the “risk.”


Resume Advice for 2012: Points to Ponder

Yes, 2012 is starting the wind-down. However, I think resume advice for 2012 is still a good topic. For one thing, with probably few changes, you can reposition the resume tips for 2013! Some of what you will see below should be just commonsense, but if you have not considered these points recently, the refresher might be timely .

Resume Advice: What Experts Say

I should probably qualify the term “experts.” From my perspective, this refers to individuals who are dedicated professionals in their field. That includes professional resume writers and hiring managers who have a clear understanding of what they need to see from candidates. It does not include “hobbyists”; that is, people who write resumes with little or no training and just as little understanding of what it takes for job seekers to capture the right attention from targeted companies. Of course, I’m biased; not only have I been writing resumes professionally since 1993, but also I belong to 3 professional associations whose members are committed to providing exceptional assistance to the individuals they work with. I’ve seen what many of them can do, and they have my highest respect.

For a basic but useful look at resume advice for 2012, you can’t go wrong by reading “7 Things Every Resume Needs In 2012” by my colleague Miriam Salpeter. Here’s one part I particularly liked:

“Age discrimination, unfortunately, is a fact of life for experienced job seekers. However, there is more you can do to make yourself seem modern, relevant, and qualified for the jobs you want than simply dying your hair or updating your wardrobe. One key to job search success: an up-to-date, contemporary resume that doesn’t make the reader assume you last applied for a job in 1995.

Here are some tips to help you create a resume an employer will appreciate: Include links in your contact information. Include links to social media profiles (such as your LinkedIn URL) in your resume’s contact information. If you use other social media tools professionally (such as Twitter or Facebook), include that information as well. Simply listing these will help someone reading your resume picture you as a candidate who is keeping up with modern communication tools. Use a professional email that doesn’t reference your age or family status. (For example, avoid “gram@hotmail.com” or “mom7@gmail.com.)”

Other Resume Advice to Ponder

  • Address employer needs: Does your resume reflect an understanding of the needs of the employers–assuming, of course, that you have the kind of background and skills they need? If not, you have some work to do. Identify and articulate critical areas in which you can add value that speak to the most important needs those organizations have.
  • Limit the length of your resume: If that means only one page, regardless of the situation, I have a problem with it. True, conciseness is increasingly perceived as desirable–especially if people will be reading your resume on their smart phone or similar device. However, conciseness without careful attention to the value and impact of the content is worse than meaningless. It can damage your chances for consideration.
  • Put your photo on your resume to personalize it, or use a video to show employers what you can do: For the most part, we still say that you should skip the photo if you’re not in a field such as entertainment. I also have reservations about using video (because of the possibility of discrimination). However, if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you do it with professional quality.

I could mention numerous other pieces of advice, but you can Google “resume advice for 2012” and get a bunch of links to check out. Just remember to read with a slightly skeptical mind about any sweeping claims made.