Quite some time ago, I wrote about an emerging job search trend–using something called “e-notes.” At that time, it was a fairly new concept as a job search tool. However, since then it has gained significant momentum as an alternative to a traditional cover letter.
What an E-Note is and is Not
Let’s start with the “is not” part. An e-note is not an attachment to an email when you send your resume somewhere electronically. A cover letter is. An e-note goes in the body of your email message.
An e-note is designed to communicate the core message you need and want an employer to see, in a nutshell. While not as short as a Tweet, it usually holds about half the content of a traditional cover letter and takes about half the space to do it.
In other words, where you might have a one-page cover letter (hopefully not crammed TOO full), your e-note should be approximately 1/3 to 1/2 a page.
Should You Use E-Notes?
While they’re not for everyone all the time, you can use an e-note almost any time you are submitting your resume to a potential employer via email. If you do it right, your e-note has a better chance of being read by the recipient than a traditional cover letter in many cases.
Creating E-Notes: What You Should Know
E-notes have streamlined content, a relatively simple visual presentation, a to-the-point writing style (think few or no adjectives and adverbs), strategically selected information, and a focus on a specific topic with limited, relevant information.
Job Search E-Notes Tip: The subject line of your email message becomes critical in using e-notes as a job search tool. You need to concisely communicate a “message” in that space that will make your email stand out and motivate the recipient to open and read your attached resume.
E-notes can easily be customized to specific submission circumstances…and should be! There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” e-note. (Actually, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” traditional cover letter, either, but that’s another matter.)
Do you need both an e-note and a traditional cover letter? Not for the same submission. However, if you want to physically mail a resume to someone, a cover letter is the way to go.
Need help incorporating e-notes into your job search tool kit? Creating e-notes is one of the services I offer–all you have to do is ask!
You’ve probably read one or more articles about how to “work a room” and talk to as many people as possible in a networking event when you’re conducting a job search. I know I’ve seen a lot of them published. However, maybe it’s not so much of a numbers game after all. At least, that’s the premise of a recent article by Eric Holtzclaw, “Why Networking Doesn’t Work.”
Selective Networking–What It Is and Is Not
Selective networking is my term for it. Here’s part of what Holtzclaw says about it:
“Remember six degrees of separation? With the introduction and widespread use of social media and other technologies, a study from 2012 shows that these days, it’s more like four degrees. The more people you know–really know–the more likely you are to make that important connection you need to take your career, company, or venture to the next level.”
According to Holtzclaw, self-described as an introvert, it’s important to start by considering what you might be able to do for the people you meet that would be valuable to them. He believes there’s no point to collecting business cards by the gross if it doesn’t produce any useful results or constantly increasing the number of your LinkedIn connections “unless you can establish a meaningful relationship with these new connections.”
Networking with Prospects & Non-Prospects
Often the advice will be to focus your attention on spending time with people who are clearly in a position to do something useful for you. However, besides sounding more than a little self-serving and self-obsessed, this approach could cause you to miss a good opportunity to connect indirectly with someone who could add value to your job search. As Holtzclaw puts it, “A non-prospect may be just as important to your future needs as a prospect because they may connect you with someone or something you need.”
The trick, probably, is to find out whether that possibility exists without spending an inordinate amount of time talking to people who don’t have the ability to offer value for your job search either directly or indirectly.
With regard to the quantity versus quality issue in networking, Holtzclaw believes that if he focuses on meeting and having “a meaningful conversation with only about five people at every event…or for each day of a conference,” he can line up sufficient new contacts to arrange for a day of meetings and “get to know each of them more deeply within a couple of weeks of the initial introduction.”
Follow-Up is Key to Networking Success
If you meet X number of people at a networking event and it’s a manageable number to get to know better, you still haven’t done all you need to do as a job seeker who’s serious about achieving a successful networking outcome. Holtzclaw cites Quinetha Frasier of First Born Group as firmly believing that if you don’t meet with someone within 10 days of the first contact, it wasn’t in the cards…not going to happen.
So you need to choose your number, network purposefully with those individuals and follow up to arrange a meeting in 10 days or less. Hopefully, that follow-up meeting will pave the way for a longer-term, mutually beneficial relationship that will show positive results for your job search.
If you receive periodic performance reviews from your current employer–or have received them in the past from former employers–are you using them as a job search tool? If not, you might be missing a good bet!
Of course, if all the reviews do is say you are “9 out of 10” or “4 out of 5” or something else equally vague, they might not be very useful. However, in the cases where your manager has actually provided thoughtful, pertinent feedback and comments on your performance, the review can serve as a potentially valuable job search tool.
Savvy job seekers know they cannot afford to overlook this tool if they want to conduct an effective job search and land a desirable position. I might have touched on this topic before, but as with many other things, it could stand repeating, especially if you’ve been overlooking the potential benefits of “mining” your reviews for useful information.
Value of Performance Reviews in a Job Search
Well-written (or even decently written) performance reviews offer several potential value points, including the following:
- Independent third-party validation of your contributions and accomplishments, rather than you talking about yourself.
- Reminders of value you contributed that you have since forgotten about or didn’t realize was especially important.
- Alternative to letters of recommendation you can’t get for one reason or another, either because you’ve lost touch with the person or because the company prohibits them from writing such letters.
Suppose, for example, you made a herculean effort that was largely responsible for getting a critical project back on track, which ensured on-time completion. Saying that about yourself could sound immodest at best and much like arrogant bragging at worst. On the other hand, imagine the effect if your manager wrote in your review, “Jean dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to overcoming a tough problem and getting project XYZ back on schedule. That meant we were able to finish on time and satisfy a key customer.”
See the difference? You can share this comment in an interview or even perhaps quote it briefly in your resume or cover letter. It gives concreteness to your statements about the value you can bring to the prospective employer.
What Performance Reviews Can’t Do for Your Job Search
Realistically, you can’t share your all of your reviews (or even all of one review) with prospective employers. For one thing, it’s likely that some of the information would be considered company-confidential or proprietary. So you need to be selective and conservative in what you use and how you word it. You also can’t–or at least shouldn’t–embellish the details provided in the review. If, for example, your boss told you privately that you had outperformed everyone on the team but didn’t put a statement to that effect in your review, you have to let that one slide. Not only could it sound like bragging but also you can’t support it with proof.
What If You Don’t Have Performance Reviews?
Let’s assume you work for (or have worked for) unenlightened employers that don’t conduct any formal evaluation of their employees’ performance. However, you might have received–or have ways of documenting–written confirmation of something you’ve done that was valuable to the company. Maybe it was in the form of a memo or email, for instance. Keep a copy of that in your file (which should be retained at home, not solely in your work space). You never know when it might come in handy.
Also, keep at least a rough log of things you’ve accomplished that you believe were valuable; it’s useful as a memory jogger, if nothing else.
P.S. I’ve been absent from this blog recently because for two weeks I had to operate my business on a backup laptop computer after my PC “died.” I maintained a degree of functionality that way, but it’s not something I want to repeat any time soon! Fortunately, we had just done a complete backup of my files (I hope you do that for yourself, as well), so I didn’t lose key data, but it was still a productivity hit. I am delighted to be “PC-functional” again!
I recently learned of a new tool that could be useful to job seekers and wanted to pass the info along to you, in case you didn’t already know about it. The tool is called TagCrowd, and it’s currently free for personal use (I paid a modest $19 to use it as a business). Here’s a brief description from their web site: “a web application for visualizing word frequencies in any text by creating what is popularly known as a word cloud, text cloud or tag cloud….TagCrowd specializes in making word clouds easy to read, analyze and compare, for a variety of useful purposes.” Those purposes include speeches, resumes and website SEO analysis.
How does TagCrowd work?
You can copy and paste text, specify a web site URL or upload a file. You can make choices regarding several options, including how many words you want it to highlight, whether or not you want it to indicate the number of times a word was used, etc., and you can tell it to exclude certain words from consideration. So say, for example, you want to find out what employers are looking for (emphasizing) in their job postings; you can ask TagCrowd to go through the wording for you. Then you click “Visualize,” and TagCrowd does the rest. It provides some neat visual indicators, such as making words appear in larger and/or bolder print if they’re used more often. The idea is that you then make sure you include any of those often-used words in your resume that are a good fit with your experience.
Another possible use for the service is to check something you’ve written and see whether you’re over-using a particular word or words. I know I sometimes do that unintentionally (as opposed to deliberately using keywords to attract search attention, for instance), and this tool would help me avoid that problem. You might find it useful in that regard as well.
Any Problems with TagCrowd?
It’s early yet, but so far I’m not aware of any big drawbacks to using it. It seems to work fairly quickly, so unless you’re asking it to go through a succession of multi-page documents, you shouldn’t run into a problem. It does have some limits: plain text inserted must be 3MB max., and an uploaded file must be 5MB max. However, you could presumably do more than one request in a row and look at longer/larger items that way, if you have the time.
My next post is scheduled to touch on yet another job search tool, Resumeter(TM) by Preptel.