Katherine Turpin

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A Recruiter’s Guide to Professional Branding

10 Tips for Enhanced Clarity (+ better job-seeking results)

There are people with such in-demand skills (ie. web developers) that a simple ‘I’m ready to look for something new’ brings a flurry of job interview activity. Yet even these folks can benefit from the long view of professional branding. Fuzzy branding begets fuzzy results (don’t be fuzzy and frustrated).

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Know what you want to be known for. As you craft your resume, begin with a ‘Professional Summary’ which includes 2-3 sentences that capture the essence of your professional self. Keep the idea behind those sentences short and powerful: “I make databases sing” “I’m a change agent” “I’m a people connector”.  Are you calling out your superpower here? You betcha.
  2. Know your “why”: Even if you landed in a career ‘by accident’ (like I did, though I don’t believe there are any ‘accidents’), know your answer to the question “Why do you do what you do? “Because I love it” “Because I’m good at it” “Because I like making a difference”. What’s yours?
  3. Variety = Balance (and a bigger network): Across your career, it’s a good idea to work at companies both small and large, startup and established. Try working both contract and perm roles. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how things are done in each, a broader perspective, and…a bigger network.
  4. Know why you chose the jobs you did: Maybe you were recruited; other times perhaps you needed a change (or your job went away) so you hit the job boards. There’s a reason why you accepted each job. As you describe them on your resume (and in interviews), focus on what you learned & how you contributed. PS: “It was the best option at the time” is also a-ok.
  5. Look ahead to your next move: There’s nobody shepherding your career but you. Think like an independent contractor or entrepreneur: keep a shortlist of companies you’re curious about. Cultivate relationships with the people in them. Change is a constant, and nothing is permanent, not even a permanent job. Let your loyalty be fairly divided between your current employer and your own future.
  6. Always be adding to your network: Pick the style of networking that fits you, whether it’s 1:1 coffees/lunches or big networking happy hours. Meetups and professional events are the obvious choices, but strike up a genuine conversation wherever you are. Talk to people at kids’ activities, church, the dog park, the gym, in coffee shop lines, on vacation, doing nonprofit/volunteer work, at sporting or cultural events. Add the people you meet to your LinkedIn network if you like them and want to stay in touch.
  7. Offer help: Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help others get what they want.”
  8. Teach a class or mentor someone: There’s no better way to cement your knowledge (and your great reputation) than by sharing what you know. If you’re in technology, offer your help to the local high school’s STEM initiative. Find a student mentoring opportunity (Google ‘mentoring opportunities’ ~ you’ll be amazed!). Find someone in your current company who’s less-experienced that you can informally or formally guide.
  9. Ask for help: People generally like and enjoy helping others. Ask for an introduction, or tag along to a lunch or meeting. Find a Meetup with a topic you want to learn about. Take a class, either online or in-person. Find your own mentor who can help guide you in your career.
  10. If writing’s not your strong point: Hire a professional to polish your resume for you & make sure your LinkedIn profile is congruent. Whether you do it with me or get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, be sure your digital brand represents you well.

Why ‘professional branding’ and a long view toward visibility?

Because an ‘apply and pray’ strategy probably won’t bring great results when you need/want to find a new job. The most-successful and resilient job seekers have a robust network and a clear picture of their value proposition. You can, too.

And if you need help, here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

Is Your Job ‘The One’?

(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.

 

Creating Your Job: an Interview with Laura Frank

(plus some tips for work satisfaction)

The topics of jobs and work satisfaction fascinate me (What do you do for work? How did you get into it? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?).

It’s a good thing I fell into recruiting ~ I get to talk about jobs and work a lot. It also means I’ve had the good fortune to talk with people who inspire me with their career choices. Laura Frank is one of them.

Why? Because she has had the audacity to follow her own inclinations, creating a body of work that both satisfies AND pays her well. She didn’t just go out and look for a job that fit. She created one for herself.

Laura, who studied physics and theatre in college (more theatre, she says), wanted to get into theatre lighting. Her story of custom-designing a career by following her curiosity is fascinating. Today, she’s lighting huge, high-profile events like the Latin Grammy Awards, concerts (Madonna and David Bowie, to name a couple), films and the Olympics.

Early in her career, she deliberately chose gigs that would allow her to pick up the skills she wanted, even when they didn’t pay well or the hours were sucky. Later on in her career, she took that arsenal of skills and reinvented her work. She found new ways to use her experience. She created (and continues to create) her own job.

Now, maybe in corporate America there isn’t quite as much freedom to craft one’s own job (though I have one friend who’s done just that because she is clever and business-savvy as well as being highly entrepreneurial and a fabulous communicator).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Laura (but you’re gonna want to watch the interview ~ it’s only 18 minutes long ~ because I purposely left some out):

  • Be authentic: follow your shiny objects.
  • Have the willingness and the expertise to let your career expand naturally. Your job or career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
  • Apply for jobs for which you’re not 100% qualified70% + some chutzpah will do nicely.
  • Stay challenged. If you start to feel like you’re doing things in your sleep, let that itch to keep learning pull you out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep 6 months’ of living expenses in the bank. Think of it not as money, but as buying yourself time. Need a respite? Need to stop and learn a new skill? This ‘time’ will support you through it.

Even if you’re mid-career and can’t couch-surf through New York following your curiosity, there are plenty of things you can do right now to move in a direction that’s more YOU.

What can I do? you ask.

  • Observe yourself. What draws you? Can you take one of your interests a step farther? For example, a couple of IT directors I know have started on-the-side businesses that feed their entrepreneurial inclinations. Take a class, challenge yourself to create something (write, paint, mentor, program, volunteer), jump the tracks and invest some energy in the direction of your own ‘shiny objects’.
  • Take back some of your time so you can do this. Be honest with yourself if you’re hearing the ‘but how will I find time?’ track in your head. Even 30-60 minutes a day spent following your own path adds up. Get up earlier. Leave the TV off. Say ‘no’ to should’s. Be lovingly firm and insistent with yourself. This is important.
  • Are you in a soul-sucking job? Can you change things about it? Even little tweaks go a long way when you stand up for what you need. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
  • Realize that, like a friendship or a marriage, unless you’re Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, no job is going be your everything. Don’t expect 100% fulfillment (hope for it, but don’t put the burden of your expectations on it). Find pockets of delight in other places to balance the less-than-delightful aspects.
  • When you try something new and it isn’t what you’d expected, you must still call it a success. You have new information, you took a chance, and that’s a win.

What I’m saying (to myself as much as to you) is, since we need to work, let your work honor your creative abilities. Do your best to find work that you enjoy. Let it be something that pays well enough so you don’t have to do it ALL of your waking hours. Choose to regard your work as a craft. Learn new skills, add new tools, and experiment along the way. Don’t sleepwalk through or clench your teeth and endure your work.

As much as I would’ve liked to be an heiress or a trust fund baby, my work has given me at least as much as I’ve given it. Way, way more than just the pay.

How do you think about your job? Do you think of it as your craft? Or is it just a means to an end?

In the end, I think work happiness begins inside. And that’s whether we’re solopreneurs, contractors, or fully employed. I think it’s a decision. Choose your work.

And enjoy the interview.

Managers: You Found a Great Candidate…WHY Didn’t S/He Accept Your Offer?

Hiring is, in my opinion, a lot like dating.

To do either one well requires strong communication and self-awareness. The best candidates (like the hottest dates) are sought after. They know their value in the marketplace. They are typically attracted to a confident, clear vision, whether it’s another person or a company. Remember, candidates are watching how you operate as you “court” them. If your hiring process lacks cohesiveness, leaves big communication gaps, or makes you seem indecisive, they’ll assume that your business is run the same way.

Here are five possible reasons why your offer wasn’t accepted:

1. The interview process was discombobulated.

All too often, interviewers operate in silos. Some preparation beforehand will go a long way toward optimizing the interview process. Ideally, your recruiter, hiring manager/decision maker and the interview team (not too many, please, unless you want to drag the interview process out while schedules are coordinated) sit down ahead of time to prepare: what skills/experience & traits should the ideal candidate have?

What can you flex on? Who’s going to ask skills/experience questions (and which ones)? Who’s going to ask behavior-based questions? Debrief with your interviewers as soon after the interview as possible so you can update the candidate (even if it’s a ‘thanks, but we’re passing’). If your company uses more than 2-3 interviews to identify a hire, let the candidate know at the beginning of the process what the timeline to offer stage might look like.

2. Your interviewers didn’t sell the opportunity and/or the company.

There’s a fierce competition for strong candidates, especially in IT. For each candidate that you like & can envision hiring, several other companies are probably thinking the same thing. Keep in mind that candidates are comparing your company against others in the same way you’re comparing candidates against each other.

Remember to bring up authentic examples of why your company is the one they should choose (even if they don’t ask). Sell a vision, not a job description. Paint a picture (if you like the candidate) that captures their imagination and includes them. If you’re aware of negative buzz about your company (you can find out on sites like Glassdoor.com), be sure to address it.

3. You took too long to decide.

Maybe your vision for the position changed. Maybe it was a budget issue. Maybe you didn’t foresee interviewers being out of the office.

Whatever the reason, when a candidate goes long stretches without hearing from you (and a weekend can seem like a long stretch when you’re waiting), it’s easy for them to assume you’re not interested, even if the exact opposite is true. If there are delays, make sure to communicate them. Stay in touch even if you don’t have a timeline update. It’s okay to touch base without an update. It shows you care.

On the flip side, if you’re talking with a passive candidate who wasn’t job-hunting, deciding too quickly can scare them off. Be aware. Asking candidates about their timeline for a new job is a smart move.

4. You haggled over salary.

In my experience, it’s best to present your best, strongest offer first. Make it clear that you really want this candidate to join your team, so you’re making them the highest, best offer you can. Tell them it’s your final offer. Lowballing leaves a bad taste in your candidate’s mouth.

You want them to be excited (and flattered) to join your company. Be that company.

5. You didn’t keep in touch with the candidate during the vulnerable notice period.

After your candidate accepts your offer (if they’re working), they are faced with giving notice. This is a time when counteroffers rear their ugly heads. Also, your candidate may be getting competing offers from other companies with whom they’ve been interviewing.

Once your candidate has said ‘yes’ to you, stay close. Ask them if they’re worried about a counteroffer (and if so, remind them why they decided to say ‘yes’ to your offer). Ask them whether they’ve told their other opportunities that that they’ve accepted an offer. Don’t do all this in a fearful way, but in a positive “we can’t wait for you to join us” way.

While you wait out the notice period, invite them to a team meeting. Ask them to join you for a team happy hour or lunch. As their manager, maybe you take them out for a 1:1 lunch or coffee.

You (or your recruiter) should be touching base with them every few days, making sure the transition period is going smoothly and to keep reminding them of why they said ‘yes’ to you.

After they join your team, stay close to them while they get acclimated during the initial, “what have I done?” period, especially if they were in their last job for a long time.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! One of my favorite managers often stopped by to say “Hi,” and “I’m so glad you’re here!” during my first months on the job.

Even if you get all of this right, it’s still possible to lose a candidate, and that’s tough. My advice in that situation: don’t close the door. It’s a small world, and you never know what’s (or who’s) just around the corner.

But by asking yourself whether your company is making these five common mistakes, your hiring success rate will take a positive spin.

Good luck!

A RECRUITER’S GUIDE TO LAUNCHING YOUR SEARCH FOR THE RIGHT NEXT JOB

Sure, you can find jobs online and apply to them, crossing your fingers and HOPING you’ll hear back….

But mapping your job-seeking journey using mindfulness, preparation and some initiative will more likely get you to the right destination: a job and company you really like.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Update your resume. With data, yes, but also review and fine-tune it. Do your best to capture the essence of your strengths without overwhelming the reader. For recruiter-recommended best practices, check out this video.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is looking good: use an updated head shot, the right amount of information in your ‘about’ section (not too long or blocky), along with some recommendations from current co-workers or clients. Make sure dates align with those on your resume. Be careful about being overly active on LinkedIn, though ~ it can be a red flag to your current employer that you’re looking (or shut off notifications).
  • Create a target list of 20-30 companies whose work and culture you find attractive. Keep commute in mind, too. Find your target companies using online research and talking with people. Another good resource is the Business Journal’s “Book of Lists”, available in larger cities.
  • Conventional job search wisdom would tell you the next step is to look for open positions on your target companies’ CAREERS pages, and if you didn’t see anything, you would drop that company from your list. BUT more than 80% of job seekers find their new roles outside of the traditional application process! Set Google alerts to help you stay informed of new postings on your target companies’ Careers pages so you’re in the know.
  • THEN… narrow your target list to around 10 first-choice companies, your shortlist.
  • Start networking: meet as many people as possible (ideally at least 5) from each company on your shortlist.  Do not use LinkedIn messaging for this ~ figure out their work email address. In your email, ask them (in a non-stalker way) if they’d be willing to meet up for a 20-minute coffee to tell you about what it’s like to work at their company. Don’t call it an “informational interview”; you’re simply making connections. And connections are what get you to the front of the hiring line.
  • Craft an elevator pitch about what you’re good at and the kind of work you’d like to be doing next. Role play with your partner (or friend, or in front of a mirror) until this 30 second description flows out of your mouth like you’ve been sayin’ it all your life.
  • Make sure your self-care includes enough sleep, regular exercise, plenty of water, healthy food, not too much caffeine or alcohol. Add in positive self-talk  & creative/ social downtime. Create balance, because this isn’t a sprint.
  • Ask your references ahead of time if they’ll put in a good word for you when the time comes (and then alert them when that time arises). Yes, in many cases, references are still checked. Also ~ be aware of what your references are saying about you! If you’re not sure, ask them how they describe your work. Even tell them what kind of role you’re being considered for so they can have their thoughts prepared.
  • Stay positive & be patient. Remember, you don’t know what lies around the next corner: that next conversation may lead to a wonderful job. Don’t give up a few inches shy of the gold!
  • If you’re between jobs, consider contracting. The all-or-nothing “get a permanent job only” mission might rule out otherwise-great opportunities. Know how much you need to earn to cover your expenses. Have an idea of what health insurance will cost you. Be aware of the going rate for your skills niche so you don’t inadvertently price yourself too low (or out of the market). If you’re working with a recruiter and your rates are at the higher end of the scale, their markup may make you too expensive.

By following these steps, you’re creating a vision and a brand for yourself, as well as building a network along the way. Time spent in figuring out your destination ahead of time, preparing yourself, and asking for a little help with directions will help you arrive at the right destination.

Have a great trip! If you need a little direction, click here for a free 15-minute “Ask me anything” call.

You’ve Got the Perfect Experience. WHY Didn’t You Get the Interview?

5 Common Resume Missteps

Of course, there could be other factors why that interview didn’t come your way. But if you have a hunch that your resume isn’t opening doors, try taking a look at it with these 5 tips in mind.

1. Your resume is too long. But how long should it be? you ask. My answer: it depends. Generally, 2-3 pages (contractors’ might be longer because assignments are typically outlined). If you work in technology, tools change quickly, so while the work you did 10 years ago may be relevant, the tools have likely been replaced. A common technology mistake: listing every single tool or technology ever used. Trim it to the ones you know best. If you’re mid- or later-career, going back more than 10-15 years can make you look out-of-step.

A resume is an appetizer, not the meal.
It should whet the appetite, not overwhelm it.

2Your resume doesn’t highlight your skills for THIS job. I know, I know. You don’t want to tailor your resume for every job to which you apply. To an extent, I agree. However, pay attention to the key requirements (from the job description) and call yours out. Especially if it’s not a clear match, if you REALLY want this job, and/or you don’t know the person receiving your resume (HR/Talent Acquisition).

As one of my hiring managers once said, “If they’re applying for a six-figure job, I expect them to tailor their resume at least a little bit.” You decide.

3. Your resume is hard to read. Take an objective look: have you used blocks of text? A block is anything more than a couple of medium-length sentences strung together. People tend to skim when reading resumes, so format yours with the reader in mind. Use bullet points, shorter sentences, and proofread it from their point of view.

Does it draw you in? Or is it overwhelming?

4. Your resume is poorly-worded or has inconsistent grammar/spelling/punctuation. I’ve seen resumes whose ‘responsibilities’ sections were copied from a job description. Or they’re written in a way that assumes the reader has familiarity with you and/or with what you do. It bears repeating: keep your reader in mind as you write your resume. Also, make sure verb tenses align (they should all be past tense, except for the job you’re in now). Spell check! Punctuate correctly. When you think you’re finished, have a picky friend review your resume.

Ask , “If I were the hiring manager, would I want to talk to me?”

5. It’s not long (or detailed) enough. Create context: how many people did you manage? What was your impact (# users, # facilities)? What was the $ savings / % growth / whatever you achieved? What’s the size and industry of your employer if it’s not well-known? Instead of writing ‘fifty million dollars’, use ‘$50 million’. Did you notice how the symbols also drew your attention in?

There’s a fine line between ‘too long’ and ‘too short’, but your resume shouldn’t just be a few Cheez Its.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of resumes. Most are perfectly fine and will do the trick (especially when you have a sought-after skillset). Some resumes are incredibly good, and some are really bad. But if you’re applying and not getting interviews, try these 5 tips.

If you’re still struggling and would like 1:1 resume advice, let a recruiter revise your resume (it’s like having the IRS prepare your taxes).

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