Writing the Book

On Job Hunting

Mary Anne Kennedy, co-founder of St. Paul’s Networking Group in Princeton for the unemployed and under-employed, wrote the book on the job-seeking process — literally.

Last year Kennedy published “Finding the Right Job: A Step-By-Step Approach” (available for $14 from Kennedy’s website — www.makhr.com) as a tool for job seekers not just to find a position but to find the right position. “There is a methodology to the job search,” says Kennedy. “The search starts with knowing what it is you want to do.”

Kennedy says job applicants should be prepared to provide examples of their abilities. “Tell me about a time when you were in a situation and people didn’t get along,” an interviewer might say. “Give me the situation, what actions you took, and what was the result.”

Or the interviewer might ask the applicant to describe a problem they solved in a “unique manner.” Or: “What kind of software do you use? Can you give me examples of how you did an implementation of specific software?” A smart candidate, Kennedy advises, should have some good answers.

She reminds job seekers that, when they reach the interviewing stage, there can be three different types of interviews awaiting them. They are the phone screen, the traditional one-on-one interview, and the “group or panel interview,” which “may include 3 to 10 people on an interview team, interviewing one potential candidate, all at the same time. A well prepared group interview team will have assigned specific questions for each interviewer.

“As the candidate, it can be an intimidating situation, but remember the interview is an information gathering session. You are interviewing all of these people as much as they are interviewing you. Be sure to give eye contact to each person on the panel with each question, but pay particular attention to the person who has posed the questions.”

Through it all, Kennedy advises, “be engaging and interested. Show enthusiasm, be articulate, clear and concise. Give appropriate eye contact. Respond to the question and then be silent. Do not ramble. If you feel you haven’t responded appropriately or clearly, ask the interviewer if you answered their question.”

Kennedy emphasizes the value of occasional silence. “Know when you have completed your thought, and stop. Wait for the next question. Too many times people think it’s better to add more details, but that’s not true. The more concise the response, the better. So get comfortable with silence … The last thing you would want to receive as part of the feedback from an interview that didn’t go well is ‘he/she just wouldn’t stop talking.’”

— Michele Alperin

Excerpted from the November 14, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

Job Hunters Need

To Embrace Social Media

The evolving world of communication technology and etiquette has extended into every sphere of life, and, says career coach Alex Freund, job seekers need to embrace it. “If you want to accelerate finding a job, social media is the best way.”

Freund, principal in Hopewell-based Landing Expert Career Coaching, says many recently unemployed people that he sees are often lost when it comes to the latest ways of connecting with those who can help them find a new job.

“They are not comfortable with social media,” he says. “Initially they resent it. They don’t know how to deal with it. There is a great deal of hesitation and skepticism.” What’s more, social media is not intuitive. “There is a steep learning curve,” says Freund.

Get LinkedIn. Freund, who has 4,400 LinkedIn connections, cannot emphasize strongly enough that LinkedIn is the place that anyone in career transition needs to be. “LinkedIn is number one,” he says. “Second is Twitter, then Google+, and Facebook.” Facebook is 10 times larger than LinkedIn, he says, but he sees it as “primarily for younger people.”

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is “number one for business.” Beyond being the go-to site for serious business people, it is where recruiters often look for talent. “More than 90 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn.”

Show your face. Freund finds that many people do not want to post their photos on social media sites. Sometimes the issue is as simple as having put on a few pounds and feeling uncomfortable about appearance. Other times, he says, people fear discrimination.

They worry that broadcasting their ethnicity or age will sink their chances of being considered for a job. And they’re right. Recruiters can pass over them, and they will never know why, says Freund. Still, he insists, it’s imperative to post a picture.

“Facts are facts are facts,” he says. Whether you are 10 years away from Social Security or a mere 10 months out of college, your approximate age is part of your package. People may discriminate against you when they see your picture, but, says Freund, they will definitely discriminate if you don’t post a picture. “They’ll assume that you have something to hide.”

Research your contacts. The rules for real world job hunting apply online, as well. Sites like LinkedIn are places to network, but before beginning the process, determine just who you want to meet. Research your target industry and companies. Locate people within them who might be able to help you or give you information. Then, says Freund, reach out to them online.

Keep it brief. “Don’t post your whole resume to LinkedIn,” he says. “People have an abundance of reading every day. The shorter and more to the point, the better chance that people will read it.”

Embrace keywords. Long a staple of resume advice, the importance of using keywords applies on social media sites, too. Job hunters of a certain age recall being told to use action verbs. But now, says Freund, verbs have been ditched in favor of keywords.

This is especially true when computers are on the prowl for job candidates. They will only “see” those whose keywords match the narrow criteria of a specific job.

After you have set up a social media network, made new connections, and nurtured relationships, hang onto them after you land a new job.

“Keep social media a part of your life,” says Freund. “Clients who have found jobs often say ‘I’ll be on social media forever!’” Some follow through, but many don’t. This is a mistake, says Freund, a veteran of many job transitions. “Fit social media into your life. It has a beginning, but no end. Stay with the program.”

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Excerpted from the October 24, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

Competing for IT Jobs

For Jerry Masin, hiring someone who can think and learn in the right way is more important than finding a technological whiz kid. As the president of SetFocus, a Parsippany-based training and placement academy for IT professionals, Masin sees up close how fast and how often technology changes. And being able to keep up with the changes is more important than knowing any one particular program.

Be creative, be smart. Masin has found that a broad understanding of how technology works is better than specific knowledge of one application or program. SetFocus looks for someone who can translate technology into life experience and vice versa. He looks for the problem solver, the creative thinker, and the ability to make the abstract into something concrete.

It’s a competition out there. Besides the unethical aspects of making promises of getting a job, Masin cautions would-be IT workers to know how competitive the job market is. The irony is that the field actually works against experienced workers right now. In interview rooms all over the world, new-to-the-field candidates are going up against seasoned pros. And while it’s hard to break into the field at an entry-level, it can be harder for a longtime IT worker to get work.

Why? Money. Newer workers are willing to work for less than seasoned workers who have gotten used to big paychecks, Masin says. At the same time, experienced workers have gotten wise and are willing to work for less.

— Scott Morgan

Excerpted from the September 26, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

New Rules Are Old Rules

Jobs today can be hard to find, and good jobs — the kind that lead to a long-term career in the field you are interested in, with good pay and benefits — are even harder to find.

But there are jobs out there, says Suzanne Kaplan, owner of JobTalk4All.com, an expert in helping others find the right career. You just have to know where, and how, to look. There is no mystery to job seeking, she adds. In fact, if there is a “new rule” to looking for a job, it is that the old rules still work the best.

What Not to Do. “The biggest mistake people make in searching for a job today is in thinking that all they have to do is to upload a resume to an online job board,” says Kaplan. Whether it is a national or a regional site, the number of resumes submitted for each job is often in the hundreds or even thousands, and it is difficult for any one person’s resume to stand out. “The chances are, no matter how well your resume is written, it’s going to end up in a slush pile.”

But she doesn’t discount the need for an excellent, professionally written resume. “The rules for resumes have changed. Today you need to understand which keywords are important for the job you are looking for. Without the right keywords, your resume probably won’t be seen.”

Get Out and Meet People. Once you’ve got that great resume, the best next step is to get out and meet people. “Get out of your comfort zone. Go out and network. It’s no longer a choice when you are looking for a job, because if you are not willing to do it, there are a dozen other people who are just as qualified as you who are out there — and they are the ones who will get the job,” she says. People hire people they know, so the more people you meet, the better chances of getting the job you want.

Volunteer. “The truth is that in today’s job market, young people with little job experience will probably have to work for free,” says Kaplan. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience. “It’s a great way to display and to increase your job skills, build a resume, get experience, and develop better references.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Excerpted from the September 19, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

Free Job Search

At Your Library

For those who haven’t looked for a job recently or who are newly applying for a “real” job, the universe of possibilities can seem overwhelming — especially with the Internet playing such an important role in the job-seeking process.

Luckily, a number of tools are available for free to library card holders through the New Jersey State Library and local libraries. These include not only job search tools but also extensive support through the preliminaries that are so critical to finding satisfying work.

A recent presentation by librarians Jane Brown and Janet Hauge on “Databases for Jobseekers” at the Princeton Public Library introduced several of these tools. As many share similar features, the Job and Career Accelerator will be described in detail, followed by shorter explanations of other similar tools. Here are some of the ways it can be used:

Get suggestions of potential occupations. The purpose of the Occupation Matcher tool is to widen your thinking about what types of occupations you might consider; it requires answering 100 questions about potential job tasks that you like, dislike, or are unsure about.

Investigate individual occupations. One of the first questions a potential jobseeker wants answered about any occupation is how many openings it will have over the next decade or so. Answering this question is the first tidbit of information under “Explore Occupations” — a description of the occupation, average salary, number employed, and projected growth from 2008 to 2018 as well as number of current job openings; this information is available for the United States as a whole or in a selected state.

You can also check how well your own knowledge, skills, and abilities mesh with those the occupation requires; what kinds of tools and technology you will need to use; and what kind of education and training is necessary.

The Occupation Matcher also helps answer one of the most important questions for new college graduates and people considering changing fields: Would I enjoy working in this type of job? To do so, it offers a long, detailed list of likely job tasks for each potential career.

Look for a job. When using job-search tools, librarians point out that you should always use the “advanced search” option, which allows you to more narrowly specify not only the jobs you are looking for but also those you are not interested in. It is important, of course, to also note when and where a job was posted.

Prepare your resume and cover letter. Perhaps the biggest surprise in this database and others like it is the “hands-on” help in crafting resumes and cover letters.

For resumes, the first things you see are sample resumes of people who have applied for jobs in the same field, at all levels; each example is accompanied by “expert notes” that describe the strengths of the particular resume.

And if you see something you like in a sample, even just a small piece, you are invited to use it as a template in your own resume. You can also store multiple versions of your resume, and cover letters as well.

Writing a cover letter proceeds similarly. The database takes you through each step in writing a cover letter, saving it as you go along.

Another database, Career Transitions, is also available to library users through Jerseyclicks.org. One of its unique offerings is a simulation to help you prepare for a behavioral interview; it teaches you how to describe a relevant situation from your past experience, what your goal was, what action you took and why, and what the result of your action was.

The simulation interview is based on a particular hiring organization and job opening as well as a profile of a specific interviewee – all of which are provided beforehand. During the simulated interview, you will be asked to choose among three options in response to several different questions.

Then comes the feedback on your interviewing skills. Brown says, “When you’re unsuccessful, it tells you what can do to improve your performance. In the real world, it is rare that you ever get that feedback.” A successful first interview yields a second one, at the end of which you find out whether you got the job.

— Michele Alperin

Excerpted from the July 11, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

Connect With

A Career In Biotech

Whatever anyone can say about the economy in New Jersey, biotech is one of the few sectors that continues to hire. The sector has also curried the favor of the Christie administration, which has poured generous grants and incentives into the state’s pharma and biotech companies, many represented by Hamilton-based BioNJ, a trade group for the state’s life sciences sector.

Training for the unemployed. Vicki Gaddy, the director of Bio-NJ’s Talent Network, says that New Jersey provides generous incentives for unemployed life sciences professionals to update their skills or try new things. The state provides up to $4,000 worth of grant money to individuals, for the duration of their unemployment, to pay for courses and professional development programs.

Also, says Gaddy, people in life sciences often have R&D backgrounds, but no training in regulatory affairs — a huge growth segment in the biotech sector. State-sponsored training, she says, can provide “a nice piece you can add to your resume.”

The well-rounded. The confluence of shrinking economy and technological advancement has created an entirely new normal in how most businesses operate. Fading are the days of specialists who zero in on one area of an industry. Rising in their place is the well-rounded worker who knows the A-to-Z of how his company or industry works.

As a rule in big-biotech, however, companies are not yet looking too hard for the all-around candidate, Gaddy says. Big life sciences still want specialists and still want people who know an area better than most.

But the opposite is true when it comes to small companies. Small companies need people who understand how to do their jobs, but also understand market and regulatory affairs and finance. The reason is simple — small companies don’t have the manpower to create whole departments dedicated to specifics.

Interviews. Google Inc. is notorious for its outlandish interview questions designed to gauge how a candidate thinks in abstract ways. There is no right answer, but there are plenty that won’t get you the job.

This model of creative interviewing is spreading, and Gaddy says the life sciences are no different — companies are getting more creative with their interviewing in an effort to see how a candidate’s mind and personality operate.

— Scott Morgan

Excerpted from the June 20, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

Women Needed

In STEM Careers

If you want to have a chance to win, you have to play the game, but when it comes to “STEM” careers (science, technology, engineering, and math), the majority of women are still not playing.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, while women hold almost half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs — and that percentage has not increased greatly in the past few decades, despite an increase in the number of college-educated women who are now in the overall workforce. Why? Because women hold a very low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering, according to the report.

In addition, women with a STEM degree are less likely than men to work in a STEM occupation and are more likely to instead choose to work in education or healthcare, according to the report, despite lower disparity in earnings between men and women in STEM careers versus other fields. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs.

The Council on Gender Parity in Labor and Education of the New Jersey State Employment Education and Training Commission is seeking to help close the gender gap in STEM careers. And Judy Formalarie, an employee of the council, has been instrumental in the development of an annual conference to further that goal.

“Each year we develop a report on the state of STEM careers in New Jersey based on the conference. Obviously, that report is heavily influenced by the speakers and their topics. This year we want to make sure that all of the participants have a chance to speak and give us their feedback.”

One of the many reasons that few women go into STEM careers is a lack of knowledge by parents, other family members, and educators, says Formalarie.

She uses herself as an example. “I graduated from high school in 1971 and I thought I had only a few choices: get married or become a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary.”

For women, says Formalerie, STEM careers are “porous careers.” It’s as if you took a water pipe and drilled it full of holes. At each step, more and more women fall through those holes.

It starts in middle school and high school, where young girls take fewer math and science classes than the boys. Because they are not as prepared in high school, they are less likely to study for a STEM career in college.

Those who do get a college degree in the sciences are more likely to choose teaching over working in industry, Formalerie notes, putting them immediately in the lower-paying end of a science career. Those who do choose industry are more likely than men to drop out to raise a family, and most never return.

“Many women believe that once they have taken a few years off to raise a family, they are too far behind to go back to a STEM career. That’s not necessarily the case, but the perception is there, so many never try to return,” she says.

One of the most important things that women already in STEM professions can do is to mentor other women, according to Formalerie. No matter what age group a woman is interested in working with, there are mentoring opportunities.

“We need to be working with girls as early as middle school,” she says. There are programs in schools through the Girl Scouts and other organizations to work with young girls. Girls in college also need female role models to help them learn more about job opportunities available to them in the sciences, and once these young women are in the workforce, they need mentors to help them to learn and get ahead.

A sense of social purpose is one attraction of a STEM careers. “Women, in particular, are interested in having a career that will benefit society,” says Formalerie.

“A woman will put her eye to a microscope for eight hours a day because she understands that she is working for a cure for cancer or another disease,” she says. “Women want to do good in the world, and STEM careers are an excellent way to do that. One of the ways to interest more women in these careers is to show them the social purpose.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Excerpted from the June 13, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.

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