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How should I follow up on an introduction to a potential employer?

first-impression2Jerry from Grand Valley State University asked:

How can I most effectively follow up on an introduction to a potential employer? 

I briefly met a man who owns a small holding company in my home town. We exchanged cards, and he asked me to send him my resume.

What is the best way to follow up?

Hi Jerry

Timing is everything!  The longer you wait, the greater the possibility the potential employer will forget he met you.  So, here is my advice:

Follow up within 24 hours

Strike while the iron on hot!  That is, follow up while this potential employer still remembers meeting you.  If you wait too long, he will forget his offer to review your resume, and you will develop a reputation as someone who doesn’t follow through in a timely manner.

Remind him who you are

In the email or letter that accompanies your resume, remind him who you are and why you are contacting him. Very likely, he is a busy guy who doesn’t remember the details of every meeting or introduction. Bring him back into the moment.  Remind him it was his idea that you follow up with your resume.

Be brief and to the point

Don’t go into a lot of detail.  He already wants to see your resume.  Don’t feel the need to include the details in the body of your email.

Follow instructions

If he told you to send your resume, do so!  If he asked for a resume and references, provide that.  If you follow the instructions he gave you – no matter how informal those instructions may have been – you will show that you know how to follow instructions.  You will show you are dependable.

Market yourself

Toot your horn a little bit.  Give him reasons to review your resume immediately.  Don’t go overboard here, but take the opportunity to market yourself a little.

Ask for the next meeting

Conclude your email with a request for a next meeting.  Regardless of whether this potential employer has current openings, he can be a valuable professional contact for you immediately or down the road.  Ask for a meeting.  The better he knows you, the more willing he will be to consider you for a job now or in the future (provided, of course, that you make a good impression in the meeting!).

Following is an examples of how you might craft your email follow up:

Dear Mr. Smith,

It was a pleasure meeting you last night at the Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting reception for ABC Corporation.  I enjoyed learning about how you started your holding company and grew it into the successful enterprise it is today.

Thank you for taking interest in me and my career. As I am sure you will recall, I will be completing a bachelor’s degree in business and finance in May and am eager to begin my professional career in business with a local company such as yours.

Per your request, I have attached my resume to this email for your review.  I am eager to visit with you again and learn more about possible opportunities with your company.  

All of my classes this semester meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I am most available to meet on Tuesdays and Thursday.  I will call your assistant next week to inquire about scheduling time on your calendar.  In the meantime, please feel free to call or email me.

I look forward to continuing our conversation!

Best Regards,

Jerry Candidate

Good luck!

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How can I most effectively present my qualifications to employers?

brainRachel from King’s College London in the UK asked:

I completed a masters in neuroscience in 2006 and have been trying to get a job in the field ever since. I’ve done other jobs and about 2 years of voluntary work in between then and now to get into scientific research. However I was unlucky in my choice of voluntary work. One of the places I worked had trouble attracting grant money and the other made around 50% of its staff redundant. Due to having such a bad time I feel I didn’t do as well as I could have done; I did very well in my masters (for my dissertation I gain a distinction). How do I put a positive spin on my experiences? I know that this field is right for me because I enjoyed my masters so much and many of the temporary positions I’ve had, have not been ones which I’ve enjoyed anywhere near as much.

Hi Rachel

You are in a very unique and highly specialized field. I know you are aware of that fact, but job seekers often lose sight of that reality when they looking for their next opportunity.  They apply the “conventional wisdom” standard to their circumstances (which is usually neither conventional nor wise!) and begin to make assumptions about their search, employers in general, the job market and their qualifications. Please do not do that!

Here are some tips I hope you will find useful.

Be both smart and well informed

Make sure you understand the breadth and depth of the job market in your field.

What is the job market for professionals in your field?  Where do people in your field work?  Geographically?  By industry?  What is unique about pursuing a career in neuroscience?

The better informed you are about the specific dynamics of your industry, the more strategic you can be in pursuing employment.

The Society for Neuroscience posted a very interesting article on its website on Preparing Neuroscience Graduate Students for the Job Market.  It also hosts a NeuroJobs Career Center online.

The British Neuroscience Association website also has a neurosciences jobs page.

You may already be aware of these resources, but I share them just in case you are not.

Sell, don’t dwell

Be prepared to “sell” what you offer and not “dwell” on what you do not.

It is very easy to focus on the negative, particularly when you have faced difficulty in your career.  If you dwell on what went wrong (or didn’t go right) in presenting your background and qualifications, employers will view you as problem-oriented.  If you sell what you learned through your experiences, how your path makes you qualified to work in your field, employers will view you as solution-oriented.

You did well in your studies – focus on that.  The work you did in your various volunteer and other positions was good – focus on that.

Unless your job was to attract grant money, the fact that one of the places you worked had trouble attracting grant money is not a negative aspect of your candidacy.  It was not your fault that one of your employers had to lay off employees because of staff redundancy.

As a job seeker, your primary objective is to give potential employers reasons to consider you for employment. It is not to give potential employers reasons to not want to consider you.

Sell what you offer, don’t dwell on what you don’t.

Set goals you can achieve

Approach your job search methodically and give yourself the opportunity to be successful.

Measure your progress week by week.

At the start of each week, set some job search-related goals that are realistically attainable that week.  At the end of the week, measure your progress against goals you set.

Perhaps in the first week, your goals will focus on information gathering; identifying the resources – online and elsewhere – that you need to be accessing on a regular basis to stay informed about industry trends and aware of developing opportunities.

In the next week, you might focus on accessing those resources and on relationship-building.  Who do you know and who do they know?  Who can assist you and how?  What are you doing to connect with and/or stay in touch with colleagues in your professional network.

Each week, you will probably build in some direct job search activities, as well.

If you set weekly goals  that are achievable, you will give yourself a chance to be successful in the short-term, and you will be able to  recognize the progress you are making.  You will also be able to hold yourself accountable in the short term.

Why are short-term goals important?  If you are not achieving your short-term goals, it will be extremely difficult to achieve your long-term goal of getting a job.

Good luck!

matt-signature

How can I learn more about careers in grant writing?

grant writingMichelle at the University of Alabama – Birmingham asked:

I am interested in working as a grant writing consultant while pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. I have some previous work experience in this area and have successfully completed a course in order to become a grant-writing consultant. Although it was very insightful, I feel that it would be beneficial if I could speak with someone who has chosen this career path in order to learn about additional training necessary to start the process. Can you offer any suggestions?

Hi Michele –

Your instincts are spot on!  The best way to get the inside story on any career is to speak directly with people working in that field.

There are a few ways you can go about finding people with whom you can do these informational interviews:

Talk to grant writers at your university

Every university seeks grant funding, so every university has people (on staff or on contract) that write grants.  Check with the staff in your Development Office (the fundraising folks!).  There probably are a few folks who do grant writing and would be willing to share their advice with you.

Find grant writers on LinkedIn

Grant Writer SearchIf you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be!  It is a great resources for connecting (and remaining connected) with like minded professionals.

I did a quick search of my personal network on LinkedIn for the title “Grant Writer” – current or past – and it returned 602 names!

Now, my network is quite large, so your search many not net as many results, but it will net some, and you only need a few.

Be prepared for the informational interviews

Not sure what an informational interview is?

Read my Guide to Informational Interviewing.

When you schedule an informational interview you are asking the interviewee for their most valuable commodity – their time!  Don’t waste it by being unprepared.  Be ready to ask good, inquisitive questions.  Seek their advice and insight. Don’t ask questions you can answer yourself by doing a Google search.

Do your homework

I always recommend that job seekers and career explorers connect with the professional associations in the fields they are pursuing.

In the case of grant writing, you should target the American Grant Writers Association (AGWA).  It lists  Job Opportunities and Training resources, including the Grant Writer Certification courses. Perhaps the course you took was an AGWA course.

Also, look into the Grant Professionals Association and its Job Center.

I also recommend reading this very good download from Entrepreneur.com on Choosing Grant Writing for a Career Path. It provides a nice overview of the career path.

And lastly, here is a rather old (but still valuable) article from the Chronicle of Higher Education: Debunking Some Myths About Grant Writing. The article might be a bit dated but the advice is still sound.

Hope this information and these resources help!

Good luck

matt-signature

Will future employers find my current experience valuable?

add_valueNick from Montclair State University asked:

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business and have been working in the real estate industry as a sales associate. This is my first job out of college and I was wondering if  future potential employers will find value in my real estate sales experience? 

Hi Nick –

There is a lot packed into your question, but I can sum up my response in two statements:  Employers will find your current experience valuable if they understand it and if it is relevant to their hiring needs.

Employers will find your current experience valuable if they understand it

Employers don’t inherently “get” you.  They don’t understand you, your interests or your experience until you help them do so.  Informational interviews, resumes, cover letters, professional networking activities and job interviews all give the opportunity to help employers understand who you are, what you want and what you offer, but they will only understand you if you do a good job of describing yourself.

In your resume, don’t just list job descriptions. Rather, provide examples of what you actually did.  Examples of what you did illustrate what you capable of doing and make your qualifications understandable.

In cover letters, address how what you offer and are seeking line up well with what the employer is seeking in candidates.

In interviews, tell your story.  Don’t rehearse or script the “answers they want to hear.”  Be honest and focus on the aspects of your qualifications that matter to the employer.

In your professional networking and informational interviewing, practice sharing your examples and ask questions that will help you better understand how you might fit into their worlds.

Your job is to help potential employers understand you.  Make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Employers will find your current experience valuable if it is relevant to their hiring needs

You might have exceptional experience and a tremendous skill set, but if your experience and skills aren’t what an employer needs, that employer will not find your experience or skills particularly relevant.  They will probably think – “Wow, that’s a talented guy.  If only I needed someone with those skills and that experience.” – and then move on to the next candidate.

When looking for a job, look for a job that matches well with the experience, skills, talents and interests you offer.  If what you offer is relevant to what an employer needs, and you do a good job of making yourself understandable to that employer, you will be a competitive candidate.  It is that simple and that complex – at the same time!

Does that mean you are destined to a career in real estate sales because that is what you are doing right now?  Absolutely not!

It does mean that if you want to move into different field, you will have to demonstrate to employers in other fields that you mean it, that you understand their fields, and that you believe the skills and experience you developed in real estate sales will transfer well into their worlds.

Answer the following four questions well, and employers will find your experience relevant

1. Why do you want this job?

You have to be able to explain and defend your reasoning for wanting the job for which you are interviewing.  “Needing a job” is not a sufficient response. You have to explain how you think the job fits you.

2. Why should we hire you?

You are not the only candidate, so why should they select you?  Again, “needing a job” is not a sufficient response.  You have to explain how your combination of experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics match up with the experience, education, skills and qualities/characteristics they are seeking in candidates. You have to explain how you think you fit the job.

3. Why do you want to work for this organization?

You must demonstrate that you have done your homework.  When you say “I’d love to work for your company!” – you have to be able to back it up.  What is it about the company that you find appealing.  You have to be able to explain how  and why you think you will fit in their culture.

4. Why do you want to work in this profession/industry?

You must demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the profession/industry. They aren’t going to just take your word for it.  Just as every company’s culture is unique, every industry and profession has its own unique features and characteristics; features and characteristics that – depending upon what you are seeking out of your career – can be viewed as advantages or disadvantages.  You have to be able to explain that you understand their world and will be able to fit in their world.

See, it just that simple and just that complex – at the same time.

Good Luck!

matt-signature

65 “Ask the Coach” Answers from The Campus Career Coach

Do you have a question for the Coach?

The following questions have been addressed by The Campus Career Coach during the 2012-13 Academic Year.  If you have a question, just “Ask The Coach” and look for the response on this blog!

Are there any jobs where you can work from home?

Are there jobs in Omaha related to lobbying?atc

Can I afford my current lifestyle?

Can I get a job with a 2.2 GPA?

Can you recommend trusted sites for salary information?

Do career centers verify the legitimacy of employers that post jobs to their systems?

Does my resume need an Objective statement?

Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?

Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Southwestern Advantage Company

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can I build up my managerial skills?

How can I find an internship when I’m not enrolled in school?

How can I find an internship/co-op that matches my skill set?

How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?

How can I get experience in a new field when I work full-time and go to school?

How can I get into consulting after a military career?

How can I get paid experience when no one will give me an opportunity?

How can I prepare an Applicant Tracking System-friendly resume?

How can I pursue a career in homeland security and cyber intelligence?

How do I improve the appearance of my resume?

How do I pursue a career in sales when my degree is in political science?

How do I show my education from another country on my US resume?

How do I write a resume when my skill set is very diverse?

How do you pursue a long distance job search?

How does an older job seeker get his foot in the door in web development?

How important is establishing an online presence when I’m looking for a new job?

How should I address my military experience on my resume?

How should I format my resume so I don’t come across as a “job hopper”?

How should I respond when asked for my salary requirements?

How should I show transitional employment on my resume?

I am frustrated with my job search. Can you provide insight or new ideas to consider?

I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?

I have no relevant experience; how can I make my resume attractive to potential recruiters?

I need help with my resume. Where do I start?

I’m a senior – is it too late for me to do an internship?

I’m ready to re-enter the workforce – where do I start?

Is a Master’s degree necessary in today’s job market?

Is it time to leave a job I love to advance my career?

Is this job posting real or fraudulent?

It’s good to be selective – it’s bad to be picky

Should accomplishment statements on a resume be stated with bullets or in paragraph form?

Should my resume have an Objective Statement?

Six Questions to Frame Your New Year’s Resolutions

What are you going to do with that graduate degree?

What can I do with a BA in English and a desire to write?

What can I do with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies?

What can I do with a degree in University Studies?

What can I do with a Psychology degree? Should I get a graduate degree overseas?

What is the best way for a “first timer” to look for a job?

What is the proper attire when attending a career fair?

What is the starting pay for an entry level laboratory testing engineer?

What jobs can I get with a Psychology degree and Spanish/Business minors?

What kind of jobs can a History major really look into?

What kind of on-campus job should I get?

What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions

What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

What should I include in a cover letter?

What should I major in?

When is the right time to follow up with an employer after an interview?

When should I ask for a promotion?

Where can I get help writing my resume?

Where does my job flipping burgers fit on my resume?

Will getting an MBA help me advance in my field?

With 20+ years until retirement, what should I do next?

Is it time to leave a job I love to advance my career?

climb_ladderFrom Marcel, a working professional at a career transition point:

Background: I have a great job for a great company. The job is an entry-level position, though I’m not doing entry-level work any longer. I have been in the job for over two years and with the company for three.

I really love my day-to-day responsibilities, I get verbal recognition from my bosses, and I have even won two awards.  All of that said, I’ve become frustrated recently with the lack of advancement opportunities and mediocre pay. I do more than a lot of our managers, but people rarely leave the company, so opportunities for growth are few and far between.

I recently sought my boss’s advice about my career advancement options, and even he recognized that I would probably need to switch departments/roles to get promoted with this company.

Since I want to continue in my field, I have been considering looking at silimar opportunities outside the company to advance and diversify my portfolio of experience.  But, the thought of “breaking up” with my current employer is hard to grasp because I really believe in our product.

Questions: What is your advice for someone in my shoes? Does the title matter much to employers? Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager? Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters? Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more? What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

Hi Marcel –

This is a wonderfully awful problem to have!

You love your employer, your co-workers and your job.  You’re praised for your work and given new projects and responsibilities (good!), but you are seeing any growth on your pay stub, in your title or in your career (not so good!).  Any number of people would be thrilled to be in your shoes right now.  Some might say you are wearing “golden handcuffs” – what you have looks so good, it seems like you can’t get away from it.

handcuffsHere’s the reality – you have options; but there is a cost to exploring every option.  Life (and your career) is about what trade-offs and compromises you are willing to make.  Contentment and satisfaction in life are about knowing and accepting consequences of the trade-offs and compromises you make.  Not all consequences are bad, but there are always consequences to your actions.

You have a really big question to consider:

Right now, what’s more important to you: Advancing in your profession or staying with your employer?

If staying with your current employer is more important, you probably have to consider different paths and departments (other than your current one) in order to advance within the company.

If staying in your profession is more important, you probably have to pursue opportunities in your field with different employers; knowing there is no guarantee that you will be able to return to your current employer someday.

If you want to say in your profession AND stay with your current company, just keep doing what you are doing, accept what they offer, and wait to see if any opportunities open up down the road.

Now to your specific questions.  I’ll  address each quickly.  Please know that the same answers do not apply to all people in all situations.  Keep this is mind as you review my comments.

Does the title matter much to employers?

Titles do matter quite a bit  to some employers; to others they matter little.  Title matters the most when you emphasize it and  it is the only information or the most defining information you provide. It matters less when you de-emphasize it and provide other examples of the work in your resume that illustrate your capabilities.

Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager?

Being in a coordinator role for 3+ years shouldn’t hurt you as long as you provide some details about how your work and scope of responsibilities have progressed and your accomplishments have increased in magnitude.  This is a reason I recommend that you NEVER put your job description on your resume.  Your job description tells the reader only about what you were hired to do – it’s not about you.  Providing your most relevant and most recent accomplishments on your resume shows what you are capable of doing by showing what you have done.

Now, if you stay in the same job for a long period of time, be prepared to answer that question in interviews:  So, you’ve been in your current job for a very long time . . . why is that?

Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters?

Employer who want to evaluate candidates before meeting them do give significant consideration to the information in your resume and cover letters.  They also look at where you worked (as that also says something about you)  and solicit referrals from friends and colleagues (people hire people, after all).  Your resume and cover letter are usually your first and best opportunity to define and describe your brand (what you offer) to potential employers.

Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more?

In both cases, it depends upon what you did while you were there, regardless of how long you stayed.  There is a lot of gray area between being defined as a “lifer” or a “job hopper.”  Most of use live in that gray area, which means you have to use your time telling your story effectively.

What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

There is no such thing as a “standard amount of time.”  In general,  I recommend that you stay with an employer at least one year before trying to initiate any change.  You need to demonstrate a little bi of patience and perseverance, and sticking around for at least a year can indicate that.  My advice is to stay with a job and company as long as it continues to challenge you professionally, offer you opportunities to develop personally and professionally, and compensate you fairly (according to market rates, not your personal definition) for the work you are doing.  To me, this is a more realistic approach than is putting an egg timer on your career planning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Change is scary!

No matter how good or bad any job you have might be,  it is a known comodity.  You know the rules, the environment, the people, the expectations . . . .  and you know how to function in that environment, following those rules, working with those people and meeting those expectations.

Change means new rules, a new environment, new people and new expectations. And, change rarely comes with certainty.  There is always the risk that any change you make in your career will not work out.  What will you do then?

Marcel, don’t run scared. Don’t live you life or manage your career like a deer stuck in the headlights of an oncoming car.  You have to act, and you have to own your actions.

Do your research!  Ask yourself the hard questions and demand answers?  Seek advice from people you trust and who know you well. Process all of the information and advice you gather and then make the best decisions for YOU.

Do that, and you will be able to look yourself in the mirror with pride, regardless of the decisions you make.

Good luck,

matt-signature

Four Easy Ways to Maintain and Grow Your Professional Network

Networking and professional relationship building can be fun, easy and rewarding, both personally and professionally. Here are four relatively easy ways to bring meaning, value and productivity to your professional network.  But watch out!  If your not careful, you might actually start to enjoy yourself!

Become active in professional associations and/or civic organizations

In order to maintain your network of contacts, you must stay in touch with them. One easy way to stay in touch with your existing contacts and make new contacts is by being active in your professional association and/or in civic groups in your community.  Being active in your professional community keeps you in regular contact with your professional peers and gives you an opportunity outside of your job to develop these relationships and your reputation with these contacts and make new contacts in your field.  Being active in a civic organization, non-profit association, church or other group provides you the opportunity to connect with others who share your personal interests and values apart from your job.  These types of contacts can also be extremely valuable to you as you manage your career over time, consider changing careers, or are seeking an alternative opinion or point of view on a challenge you are facing.  Just because someone is not in your field doesn’t mean they are not a valuable professional contact.

Not sure where to start?  Check out our list of Professional Associations.  Also, check out the student organizations registered on your college campus, as many professional associations have student chapters.

Maintain a professional presence online (not just a social one!)

Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are growing at a very fast rate. Unlike Facebook and Google+, these sites are intended specifically for professional/business networking – they offer professionals with similar interests, backgrounds and skills the opportunity to connect online and exchange information, recommend peers, make referrals, discuss topics of professional interest, share job leads and offer/seek advice.  Professional networking sites are a great complement to the personal networking necessary for a successful job search.

Help others when they ask for your assistance or advice

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Remember – genuine networking is about reciprocity.  As business author and networking expert Bob Burg put it: “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.”  When someone genuinely asks for your assistance and you believe you can help, offer your assistance.  When you don’t believe you can help, let them know.  Don’t leave them hanging.  You wouldn’t want them to do that to you. Remember, “the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity” (Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight and professional networking consultant).

Make a difference

How are you making a difference in the world; in your workplace, in your home, in your community; in the lives of your friends and colleagues?  Are you making a difference? We all search for meaning, and each person has a different definition of what holds meaning (what is important) to them.  Why do you do what you do?  What advice do you have to share with others facing decisions you have had to make in the past? What might you do next? How are you going to get there?  You have just as many answers as you have questions.  Your answers and advice could really make a difference in someone’s career, just as the answers and advice you get will make a difference in yours.