If your career is stalled, you might not need to enroll in
an MBA program, switch jobs, or take on more projects to
impress the boss. There’s a good chance that the problem
is not your company, your managers, or your lack of
"If you want to succeed in work, you might want to focus
on body image," says Rhonda Britten. "It’s the number one
reason that people are stuck. It’s the reason they don’t
ask for a raise." Research for her latest book, "Do I Look
Fat: Get Over Your Body and on with Your Life," also
indicates that poor body image is among the top reasons
that people who would like to be entrepreneurs never start
a business (U.S. 1, April 5, 2006).
Britten is a life coach (www.fearlessliving.org) and the
host of NBC’s Emmy award winning "Starting Over" daytime
reality show. The author of four books, her first was
"Fearless Living." There are survival stories, and then
there is Britten’s survival story. "Fearless Living"
recounts the event that held her hostage for 20 years. At
age 14 she was sitting on her mother’s bed chatting
happily when her father arrived home. One of her two
sisters yelled that he was carrying a shotgun.
Her father, an accountant with a genius IQ, used the gun
to kill her mother, who had just left him. He then pointed
it at her. Britten, who says she had always known that her
father hated her, was sure that she too would be shot.
But, instead, he knelt down, pointed the gun at his own
head and pulled the trigger.
She became a high-achieving person, but paid a price for
keeping her grief underground. After three suicide
attempts, she formally forgave her parents, and decided to
get on with her life. A public relations professional, she
stepped up to podium when one of her clients, a life
coach, succumbed to food poisoning five minutes into a
presentation. "Right away I knew I was home," she says.
Shortly thereafter she founded the Fearless Living
Institute, located in California. In addition to appearing
on television, she trains coaches and does corporate
Her new book is an outgrowth of her coaching philosophy,
which centers on concentrating on just a few important
challenges at a time – for a long time, at least a year.
Her number one challenge, becoming healthy, has been the
center of her life for longer than that, and, even after
running her first marathon last year, it is still her
Get unbalanced. Britten says that "balance" is a buzzword
– and a destructive one at that. "Everyone says `you just
need more balance,’ but what does it mean? People are
seeking internal balance, but are rushing around trying to
achieve it with external things." Trying to apportion
equal time for work, recreation, friends, family, and
exercise simply does not work, she says.
Take, for example, a person deciding to achieve balance by
starting a small business, expecting that doing so will
give him all the time he needs to attend to every area of
"People open businesses because they think they will be in
control of their lives," she says. "They do it to live a
balanced life. But if they never learned to take control
of their lives while working at the jobs they hated, how
can they do it in a start-up? It requires 12 to 15 hours a
day. That’s a start-up. At their jobs they didn’t know how
to say `yes,’ didn’t know how to say `no,’ didn’t know how
to prioritize, or to live by their values." These skills
will not automatically materialize in a start-up, she
warns. Far from it.
A person starting a business needs to understand that he
will be unbalanced for a while. It’s the same with a new
mother, or a marathon runner, or a Ph.D. candidate
finishing up a thesis. There will not be equal time for
every part of life – and that’s fine. In fact, says
Britten, embracing that truth is what brings internal
peace – and yes, internal balance.
Choose a commitment. When Britten first sees a coaching
client she lists the main areas of life in which many
people seek improvement, things like career, romantic
relationships, friendships, wealth, world influence, and
health. She asks the client to list three things under
each category that he would like to work on.
Everyone loves this. "They get right to work, and they’re
so proud," she says. No one has trouble setting dozens of
goals. "This is America and we think we can do everything
and be everything. They think I’ll say `let’s go for it!’"
But no. Britten makes her clients prioritize. Of all of
the things they have listed, they must pick one main area
on which to concentrate – and then one, but not more than
two, secondary goals.
The commitment will lead you. "We say, `I’m going to learn
how to say no,’" observes Britten, "but we have no context
for doing it. We end up saying `no’ inappropriately to the
boss and unnecessarily to the family."
Focusing on one commitment provides the context for this
and other skills that are essential for true balance and
for satisfaction with work and relationships.
Britten’s focus on health, for example, has led her to
risk becoming known as a diva on the set of her TV show.
She doesn’t care because the commitment is more important
than any worry about what people will think of her. "I
used to eat whatever was around," she says, "but now I
call and ask for salmon, for veggies. There’s this big
buffet, all the food in the world, but still I ask for
salmon. I’ve learned how to ask for what I want."
Her commitment to health has also led her to prioritize.
She does her hair and make-up upon arriving at the set not
too long after dawn. That used to mean that she would not
exercise on production days because she didn’t want to
appear "sweaty and icky in front of 2 million people."
After she started preparing for the marathon, however, she
used breaks for training runs. "That was really, really
hard for me," she says.
Look for the spill-over. Britten finds that skills
developed during the course of focusing on one big
commitment carry over into every area of life. All of a
sudden, there is a real reason to say "no." There is a
clearly understood need to prioritize. Training for a
marathon, or coaching a child’s team, or running for
political office makes it easy to say "no" to anything
that gets in the way.
Coaching Myths Debunked
Businesses don’t like to spend money on something unless
they get a return on their investment. But sometimes if
the monetary value is not immediately obvious, corporate
managers may nix an initiative that could substantially
improve their businesses. Although research has shown that
executive coaching can yield a 5:1 or 6:1 return,
according to executive coach Susan Battley, many business
people are just not interested – but usually for the wrong
reasons (U.S. 1, May 10, 2006).
Battley, a New York-based author whose training is in
psychology, says that a number of myths surround coaching
Many decision-makers have never been coached themselves,
and they are often leery of new management fads. "They are
`prove-it-to-me’ people," says Battley, "and that
skepticism is healthy." Others – the high achievers of
Generations X and Y – are more receptive to coaching
because they’ve seen their supervisors coached and because
they’re interested in any tools that will help them
advance their careers.
Because Battley believes in executive coaching and its
ability to help many people to perform more effectively,
she opens up her marketing to executives with what she
calls "myth-busting." The author of "Coaching Power: Ten
Myths and New Realities; Is Executive Coaching Right For
You" has found misconceptions about executive coaching to
be widespread among organizational decision-makers.
Myth of the individual. Business people are, after all,
self-made, or at least they like to view themselves that
way. Many glorify individual achievement and have the
attitude that "successful people don’t need coaches."
Battley counters with examples from sports and the
performing arts. Golf pro Phil Mickelson, for example, has
two swing coaches, one for his short swing and another for
his long one. "The more successful people are, the more
incremental gains can make a big difference," she says.
Dependency myth. The same guys who believe that they’ve
done it all themselves and will continue to do so also
harbor some fear that coaching fosters unhealthy
dependency on others. Research tells us, says Battley,
that today the greatest users of coaching are senior
executives, and the more successful, the more likely that
a leader will use a coach and use one for a longer period
of time. "Would the Yankees say, `We’ve won the World
Series several times, so we don’t need Joe Torre
anymore?’" she asks. "That’s faulty thinking. You need
support to keep performing at a high level."
Jaded myth. Sometimes people feel that they already have
all the feedback they can handle, especially in large
companies with performance management systems. True,
executives get a lot of advice, but, says Battley, "often
they don’t know how to use it." A coach can help identify
what changes will make the biggest difference going
"Many CEOs and senior leaders don’t get as much accurate
feedback as they think," Battley says. Direct reports
often don’t communicate directly, thinking that they are
protecting the leader from bad news. As people rise in an
organization, the information they get becomes more
"A coach is an independent, objective, neutral party who
can get beyond the protective layer and provide valuable
information they need to hear," says Battley. Today’s
leaders need not only to be able to hear bad news, but to
ask for it. "If you don’t know what’s going on with your
customers, employees, and investors, you’re at a
disadvantage compared to the competition," says Battley.
"Shrink" myth. Because so many coaches come from the
helping professions, many executives believe that coaching
is the same as psychotherapy or counseling. "It is not the
same, because we have different goals and orientations,"
says Battley. Coaching focuses primarily on a person’s
workplace and professional performance, not on lifestyle
or mental health issues. Coaching focuses on the present
and future, while therapy can spend a lot of time looking
to the past to make sense of present.
Emergency room myth. Then there are those people who
believe that executive coaching should be reserved only
for last-ditch efforts to fix a problem. Battley believes
a wellness model is more appropriate, with coaching
helping to overcome a performance gap or improve a
situation before it reaches a crisis. Otherwise, she says,
"it may be too late for a coach to help the person. If
relations with the team are adversely impacted, it may be
too late to resolve."
"Walk in my shoes" myth. Some executives believe that a
coach must share their background and experience to be
useful. But that can be problematic. First of all, such a
person may not have the skills necessary to help another
person achieve. They may also have the same blind spots
because of the shared experience. Although coaches
certainly need to understand what constitutes success in a
particular field, their expertise is in teaching skills
like team building, effective communication, motivation,
conflict resolution, and time and priority management.
Battley also dispels other confusions. She emphasizes that
a coach is not a mentor, because the coaching relationship
is formal, fee-based, and focuses on very specific goals –
either acquiring new skills or changing certain behaviors.
Although mentors also help with career building, the
relationship is informal and open ended, involving sharing
networks and contacts, and opening doors for people. And,
finally, she says coaching is not necessarily for
everyone. A good coaching candidate is a motivated person
who is looking for an important benefit from coaching.
How to Succeed – On Your Own Terms
Success has been on Herb Greenberg’s mind for years. It
all started when he was teaching at Rutgers and a
colleague stopped by to ask him how much he knew about
psychological testing. A large life insurance company was
looking for help locating a test that would help predict
sales success more effectively. After poring over a couple
of thousand tests, Greenberg and his colleague had to tell
their client they could find no test that could predict
But they didn’t leave it at that. Realizing that a huge
need existed, they decided, "Let’s build a better
mousetrap," and they spent the next four years doing just
that. In 1961, when they had in hand a tool that could
predict sales success, Greenberg took a leap of faith. He
quit not only his teaching job, then at Long Island
University, but also his side jobs selling insurance and
mutual funds. He borrowed $15,000, which he had no way to
pay back, and he started Caliper, now a multi-national
corporation based at 506 Carnegie Center (U.S. 1, May 24,
Greenberg, along with Patrick Sweeney, had written
"Succeed on Your Own Terms," a book on just what success
is, and how to achieve it. In preparation for writing this
book, he conducted in-depth interviews, psychological
testing, and assessments with the Caliper Profile of a
wide range of successful individuals in the fields of
politics, business, entertainment, and sports. He and
Sweeney brainstormed about potential interviewees, and
then pursued them, through connections, if they had them,
or sometimes just by sending a letter. "A few people
turned us down," says Greenberg, "but most people
accepted." The first to accept an interview was Senator
Barbara Boxer, who, he says, responded to a "cold letter."
Interviewees from 12 countries included not only obvious
public figures like Boxer, but also people with more
unusual achievements: the first British woman to climb
Mount Everest, a woman who lost her eyesight at 28 and
started a multimillion dollar company, and the female CEOs
of Lloyd’s of Scotland and Home Depot of Canada.
Successful people have their own personal definitions of
success. But definitions of success are idiosyncratic.
Take Samuel Pisar, originally from Bialystok, Poland, and
now a renowned international lawyer who served as a
consultant to the U.S. State Department and to President
Kennedy, as an advisor to President Nixon’s special
commission on international trade, and as a participant in
important international conferences in Moscow and Kiev.
Pisar saw his father, mother, and sister shot during World
War II, and his definition of success is also a humble
one: starting over and building a new family, with a wife
and two children. Greenberg observes that another way to
state Pisar’s definition of success is simply "being
For actor Ben Vereen, says Greenberg, the definition of
success is "the notion that wherever you are, you have to
go further. However far down the path you are, you have to
ask, `What is the next goal?’"
One item that is typically associated with success was not
mentioned by a single one of the 50 people interviewed for
Greenberg’s book. "I would swear that none of the 50 would
say that money is the reason," he says. "Money is a little
symbol of success. Money is nice, you want it, but it
isn’t the definition of success."
All successful individuals recall a defining moment,
something that happened in their lives to get them where
they are today. For Greenberg, what defined his life path
was losing his sight at age 10, and the choices he and his
parents made in its wake.
"At that point the whole world was pressing to send me to
a school for the blind," he says. Acquaintances envisioned
for him a future livelihood of weaving baskets or running
a newspaper stand. But he and his parents stood their
ground and pressed for Greenberg to be a part of the
sighted world. "I stayed out of school for a year," he
says (and the police even made a visit), "until they found
ways to get me into schools without shoving me behind
Eventually he skipped grades, graduated cum laude and Phi
Beta Kappa from college, and summa cum laude from his
For Paul Schulte, who represented the United States as a
college junior at the 2000 Para-Olympics in Sydney and led
his team to a 57-54 victory over Great Britain in the
bronze medal game, the moment was physical. A triple-sport
athlete as a kid, playing baseball, basketball, and
football, he was in a terrible automobile accident at age
10 and was left a paraplegic. Instead of giving up, he
became an Olympic wheelchair basketball star.
Angelo Chianese remembers one hot, sunny, July day when,
as a roofer, he sat on a roof and thought to himself,
"What the hell am I doing here? I don’t want to do this."
He slid off the roof, told his boss he was quitting, and
decided he wanted to be in the singing telegram business.
Signing up his now former boss as his first customer, he
started a successful company, the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
Singing Telegram Company.
All successful people must have the courage to grasp the
brass ring. They have to seize the defining moment and do
something about their lives.
For Barbara Boxer, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn who grew up
without a lot of money, it was the decision to keep her
safe Congressional seat or run for the Senate against a
Republican who had lots of money. She ran, and the rest is
Every successful person loves what they are doing and
would do it for nothing. Greenberg shares his own feelings
about the work he does at Caliper. "While I love earning a
good living and being astride a successful global company,
and I have the ego satisfaction of seeing it evolve from a
borrowed $15,000 to a multimillion dollar company – all
that is fun – what I enjoy most is that what we as a
company do makes a difference."
When Greenberg asked Barbara Boxer, "What would you be
doing now if you had lost the Senate seat?" she responded,
"I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now – picketing
stores, checking labels, and fighting for consumers, but
I’d have a little less power than I have now in the
Senate." About her Senatorial efforts, she said to
Greenberg, "I view it as the same work."
Lose Your Job, Change Your Life
Losing a job can be an opportunity to change your entire life and
discover what you really want to do – and who you want to be, says
Helen Burton, a lifestyle empowerment coach. While Burton does not
deny the trauma and stress of losing a
job, she believes it can become a golden opportunity and a great time
to "turn your ideas into action."
Burton, whose coaching business, Love Yourself Coaching, is located at
2 Phylet Drive in East Windsor, understands firsthand what changing a
career means. She began her coaching business four years ago, after
"several years on a path of
self-discovery" (U.S. 1, March 15, 2006).
She had spent most of her working life with the state Environmental
Protection Agency. "I knew there had to be more to life than contract
management," she says. "I heard about coaching and I wanted to work
with people to help them make
changes in their lives." She started her business while still working
full time for the state, but retired from that position last year and
now coaches full time.
"When a person loses their job they often feel that they have lost who
they are," she says. "They feel they are their job. They no longer
understand how they fit into life" says Burton. Instead, a healthier
way to look at a job loss is as
"a time to rediscover who we are, and what we want to do in life."
Taking action is the best way to feel better, says Burton. "When you
take action, even a small step, you feel 100 percent better about your
situation, because you are doing something." Burton suggests these
Take a mini-vacation. It may seem contrary to Burton’s first advice,
but taking time out to refocus and think about things is the first
step in any action plan. The mini-vacation doesn’t have to take a long
time or cost any money, she says,
but it must be long enough to get ready to focus on the next step.
"Take a walk with your dog. Go to a coffee shop or bookstore for
awhile. Turn on the stereo and sit with your eyes closed for 10
minutes." The point, she says, is to take some time to "relax,
regroup, and refocus."
Make an action plan. The next step, says Burton, is to come up with a
plan. It can be as simple as making a few phone calls or something
much more elaborate. But an important point, she adds, is to break the
plan into small, easy to
Once you have a plan, begin to put it into action by writing down and
making a commitment to complete certain steps each day. "Don’t plan on
doing 20 steps in a day," she warns. If you can’t accomplish them all
you will feel a sense of
failure. Instead, plan on two or three steps in a day. "If you feel
like accomplishing more, that’s great."
Make a list. This applies both to those who have jobs they hate and to
those without jobs. If you are unemployed, make a list of the things
you disliked about your last job and the things you loved. This list
will help you frame your job
search. If you loved the work, perhaps litigation, but hated the large
law firm politics, you might hang on to your profession, but
concentrate on finding work with a smaller firm, or perhaps with a
If you currently have a job, list the elements of the job that you
enjoy. Then try to isolate the things about the job that you hate.
Sometimes it’s as simple as the commute. If everything else is
positive, consider drawing up a
telecommuting proposal, or try something even simpler. Maybe switch
from a solitary drive to a car pool, or from a car pool to the train.
Sometimes simple changes can give you a whole new outlook.
If you hate making cold calls, maybe sales is not for you. Or maybe
you need to try to figure out a way to make them easier. Maybe a few
coaching sessions from someone who excels at cold calling, and enjoys
it, could make a major
Look at past jobs. Think about jobs you’ve had in the past. What did
you like about them? What part of those jobs would you like to do
again? What did you really love? Can you find a way to incorporate
those passions into a new job or your
Understanding and acknowledging your passions will help you to find a
way to fulfill them, says Burton. "Maybe your passion is teaching, but
you don’t have a teaching certificate, or you don’t really want to
teach in a traditional school
setting. Is there another way to fulfill your passion for teaching?
Maybe you can mentor someone in your profession."
Talk to others. Once you’ve decided what your passion is, you need to
learn how you can fulfill it. The next step, says Burton, is to set up
interviews to learn more. These can be informational interviews, she
says, not specifically job
interviews. "Call someone who is doing what you want to do. Ask them
for coffee and learn about their work." People love to talk about
their work and themselves and are usually very willing to take
sometime to help someone else.
Switch To A New Career
When Jim Deak’s job vanished with the collapse of the
telecommunications industry he had no idea of what he wanted to do.
Soon thereafter an article in the New York Times about coaching caught
his interest. He thought that the career might
suit his personality and his interests, so he hired his own coach to
clarify how to reach his goal and, after 18 months, had a diploma in
hand from Coach U (www.coachinc.com), a distance learning school with
headquarters in Andover, Kansas
(U.S. 1, October 4, 2006).
As part of his practice, the Morristown-based coach helps job seekers
to put together resumes which will help them to land fulfilling jobs
Resumes are something that should always be at one’s fingertips: a
recruiter may call, a job may end, a new internal position may come
up. "As things change in your career, new responsibilities, new
accomplishments, you want to make sure
your resume is ready," says Deak. And that resume should always be the
most recent reflection of your experience and qualifications.
The engine that feeds the resume-building process is a list of
achievements, but it’s not so easy to pull together. "Specifying
accomplishments is where people need the most help," says Deak. "Most
folks feel when they are working in a big
company that they didn’t do anything, that they were part of a blob.
But in fact, they’ve accomplished a lot."
A good way to unearth achievements that have slipped from memory is to
develop a PAR, which stands for problem-action-result. To explain,
Deak offers an accomplishment he is proud of from his corporate
The problem: the department was faxing documents to 3,000 people about
three times a week. Using a fax was inefficient: it meant lots of
wasted paper and lost time. Furthermore, the documents were not
getting out on deadline and not getting
to the right people, and the lists were not being updated accurately
as people changed jobs.
Deak’s action: He hired a software developer to come up with a
web-based solution. When it was implemented, people could get their
documents electronically, anywhere in the world, and could easily
update their E-mail addresses. It took just
six months to get the new system up and running.
The results: "There was overwhelming customer satisfaction," says
Deak, "and we probably saved $200,000 a year."
The translation to Deak’s resume: "Designed a unique web-based
document distribution system that replaced an antiquated fax system
and in the process saved $200,000 a year, to the overwhelming delight
of our customers."
Advises Deak: "Create as long a list as you can of all your
accomplishments, big and small. You can prioritize later."
Putting together this list not only provides critical ingredients for
your resume, but later, once you’ve clinched an interview, it will
help you convince the hiring manager that you are the right person for
the job. One more advantage of
the PARs: "They help people to believe in themselves a lot more."
The PARs come in handy mostly for the second of the three sections of
your resume, which include:
An executive summary. This should be short, no more than five or six
lines. It is a condensation of who you are and what you have to offer
a potential employer.
A chronological picture of assignments, general responsibilities, and
accomplishments. Although Deak says a functional resume may be useful
for someone like a homemaker who has a big block of time where he or
she did nothing professionally,
he still recommends a chronological format. "A chronological resume is
the most accepted, understood, and expected."
Education and special awards and skills.
A resume’s content is paramount, but it’s presentation is vital too.
Use high-quality paper, and leave lots of white space to make the
resume easy to read. Make sure that there are no misspelled words or
grammatical errors, and "nothing to
draw the attention of the reader in a negative way."
It has been a no-brainer for Marion Reinson, a Princeton-based
marketing strategy and web development consultant
(www.tothepointconsulting.com), to help out friends who have lost
their jobs. She figures that marketing a company and
marketing a person are based on pretty much the same principles (U.S.
1, May 3, 2006).
When you’re looking for a job, she says, "you’re the product. You’re
packaging yourself for sale." This means differentiating yourself, not
by a list of the last 20 years’ worth of jobs, but by highlighting the
characteristics and skills
you have that a company needs.
Because she finds the process to be much the same for job seekers who
have to market themselves, she likes to apply what she’s learned in
marketing small to medium-sized businesses to the process of looking
for a job:
Tell them what you can do for them. When Reinson talks to the owners
of small and mid-sized businesses she first asks: Who is your audience
and what do they want to hear? "Make sure you are developing a message
to engage that audience," she
advises. Businesses often don’t think about the audience because they
are so concerned with selling the product, and job seekers often think
about the audience because they are so eager to land a job.
Reinson recommends focusing on the qualities that a company is likely
to need – what you can do for the company, not what the company can do
for you – to modify a line from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech.
Stress your strengths. Are you a great leader? Analytical? Fantastic
with research? Not so good with people, but a whiz with Excel? Many
jobs also require people who are collaborators, communicators, and
integrators, as well as people who
can meet deadlines and attend to the budget. "These are things that
shouldn’t be left unsaid," says Reinson.
Push the added value you bring. Reinson says that IT people often keep
talking about their technical skills – skills that every one of the
people competing for a job has. But what they should be saying are
things like: "I have technical
skills, but I can talk to nontechnical people."
Reveal a lot about yourself, but not everything. For individuals as
for businesses, the "customer" may not need to know everything.
Reinson likes to use a lemonade company as an example. "The customer
doesn’t care if the company has acres
of lemon trees if it doesn’t tell them the lemonade will quench their
thirst," she says.
Be willing to take risks. Ask questions that will uncover the
potential employer’s real needs. Sometimes a job seeker needs to say
something like: "I have X years of experience in this – how do you
think I can help your business?" She urges
individuals to step out of the responsive mode and into the proactive
Don’t interview for a firm you will hate. Reinson explains that part
of her job is to help her clients learn how to get the customers they
want to get – and stay away from the customers they don’t want.
Similarly when looking for a job, not every organization is
They may be poor prospects for a variety of reasons: because margins
are minimal, because a potential client is out of region, because a
client doesn’t see the value of what the business does, or because a
potential client has regulatory
Similarly when looking for a job, not every organization is
appropriate. "You need to get up and be O.K. about going to work," she
says, "but when the door keeps closing, people may accept a job they
know is not the best thing." She says
she advised a friend who had just started his own business not to take
clients he didn’t like, and he later thanked her for the advice, even
though his first year was lean as a result.
She knows that it’s hard to turn down an offer, but urges job hunters
to be alert for signs that the company’s culture is a poor fit, that
the work it offers appears not to lead to higher responsibilities, or
even that the commute would be
Three Keys To Landing A Job
"It’s all about networking, selling yourself through your resume, as
well as presenting yourself well during the interview," says Ruth
Scott, a marketing veteran who now works as a volunteer for the
Princeton Area Community Foundation on
Princess Road (U.S. 1, July 19, 2006).
Scott knows what employers look for in a job candidate. "Working with
Prudential, basically, I was charged with selling, marketing, and
servicing financial products to the consumer," she says. "As a part of
my job I’ve had deep experience
in selecting, developing, and sometimes terminating staff. My
experience really comes from the employer’s side. I know what to look
for in an employee, how to match up skill sets, strengths, and
opportunities to meet our needs."
While some may bristle at the idea of presenting oneself to potential
employers in the same way that, say, Budweiser is peddled to sports
fans, Scott says that in a consumer society such as ours, it is
important to show yourself to
employers in the best light, as the best person for the position – and
to do so quickly. "There isn’t anything really new about this," says
Scott. "In an environment where there are many skilled applicants for
each position in the
marketplace, you must learn to distinguish yourself from the rest of
While for many jobseekers, time is of the essence, it is important to
take the time to do things to your best advantage. Rather than sending
out (or E-mailing) a blanket, all-purposes resume to a variety of
potential employers (still a
surprisingly common practice), Scott says that jobseekers up their
chances for success by doing research on companies, corporations,
market-trends, competitors, and business history, and customizing each
resume to each employer.
"In a competitive job market, applicants need to be savvy," she says.
"When your competitors have similar backgrounds, skills, and
experiences as you, then it is up to you to make the sale, so to
speak, and fit yourself to what the employer
is looking for."
Of course, gaining an interview is the goal in creating a cover letter
and resume. While it is no secret that making a positive impression is
an important part of the interview process, Scott says that she has
noticed a general tendency for
interviewees to take a too casual approach to these vital documents.
"I suppose it is due to the idea of business casual and the general
casualness that corporate America operates today on some level," she
says. "But I have noticed a
certain erosion of that kind of professionalism when compared to the
1980s and 1990s."
She says that jobseekers can take advantage of this general trend by
being more formal and professional looking than their competitors. She
recommends that jobseekers set aside the concept of business casual
and present themselves a bit
more formally until after they have been hired for the job. "While it
depends a bit on the kind of company you are interviewing with, it is
better to err on the side of too formal than too casual," she says.
"Then you can adjust yourself to
the general manner of doing things after you have been working there
While a job search is rarely easy, it can be successful sooner if job
seekers are smart about the process. Scott offers these tips:
Leave home. While some jobseekers are hesitant to get out of the
house, staying at home won’t get you anywhere. Scott advises that
networking can be a major part of the successful job search. "It is
hard work, but you have to be vigilant
about making contacts, as well as follow-ups and follow-throughs," she
says. "You never know who you are going to meet who may help you out.
If you are perceived as a `do-er’ by people around you, that can lead
to opportunities you would
not have found any other way."
Accentuate the positive. The resume and cover letter are your first
tools to presenting yourself as the right person for the position. Be
careful not to offer anything that will not present you in the most
favorable light. View these tools
as a kind of advertising technique similar to a car commercial or a
soft drink ad.
Sports car commercials talk about the sleek ride you’ll have, but not
about the miserable mileage you’ll get. Soda ads talk about how
refreshing the drinks are on a hot summer day, not about how there is
enough acid inside the bottle to
disintegrate a nail.
Come across as a star. According to Scott, personal presence,
displayed during an initial interview, can easily carry the day. "You
only have one opportunity to make a good impression," she says. "There
are a lot of other things that you
can get a second chance at, but that first interview isn’t one of
them. Having confidence and the ability to communicate the qualities
that a potential employer wants is the key to success."
Leave money talk on the back burner. Many interviewees are simply
confounded about the proper time to ask about salary and benefits.
Scott recommends that jobseekers take a wait and see approach.
"If the salary range is not communicated upfront, and you feel that
you are getting to the end of the interview and are feeling good about
your prospects, it is appropriate to ask about salary," she says.
"Just make sure not to ask too
early, before you have made a real connection and feel that a
potential offer may be made." Also, when discussing salary, it is
better to refer to a general range rather than trying to lock down a
specific number. "Almost everything is
negotiable," says Scott.
Always follow through. "I encourage jobseekers to make follow-up calls
after sending in a resume or after an interview," says Scott. "They
will probably tell you to go away, that they are still in the
interview process, and they are not
prepared to speak to you. But it is still a good thing. I don’t think
that you can be too assertive when you are trying to land that next
Scott stresses that taking getting into a mindset of "selling
yourself" to potential employers is the best way to mentally prepare
"If you can put yourself in the employers’ shoes and see the needs
that they have, then you can present yourself as the person who can
fill their needs," she says. It is as important now in 2006 as it was
in 1968, even if you are not
running for president.
Repackage Yourself To Re-enter The Job Market
How do you find a job when you’ve been out of the job market for five
years, ten years – or more? Many women face exactly that situation
each year, says Denise Brown-Kahney, director of the Career and Life
Planning Center in Flemington. The
center works with displaced homemakers from Mercer, Hunterdon,
Somerset, and Union counties (U.S. 1, May 31, 2006).
Funding for the center comes from the New Jersey Department of
Commercial Affairs, Division on Women. The only requirement for
service is to be a "displaced homemaker" – a woman who has lost her
income due to separation, divorce, the death
of her spouse, or because her spouse is unable to work due to illness
The center offers a wide variety of services including one-on-one
career counseling, career interest and abilities testing, computer
training, and seminars on a variety of personal and career growth
topics such as self-esteem and legal and
A job readiness series, aimed at helping women re-enter the job market
includes several topics, including writing a resume and cover letter,
job interview skills, business ethics, and time management. The series
ends with the most popular
session – a make-over workshop for all of the participants.
"We have someone from Mary Kay come in and help them with their
make-up and a fashion consultant talks to them about business
clothing," says Brown-Kahney. The center also has a "Working Woman’s
Wardrobe," which accepts donations of used
business clothing for women who need to quickly upgrade their
wardrobes for their new careers. Clothing donations should be clean
and in good condition.
Women who have been out of the work force for many years need a
variety of services to help them return. "Some of our clients have
specific needs," says Brown-Kahney. "They just want a little bit of
advice. Others stay with us for six
months to a year." Writing a resume is one of the most important tools
in finding a job, but for someone who has been out of the job market
for several years it can be difficult. Brown-Kahney suggests these
Emphasize skills. "For many of our clients job history is old enough
that it is not really relevant," says Brown-Kahney. Jobs held decades
ago may be irrelevant to the hunt for employment. She asks instead
that her clients look at the
skills they have used while they are out of the work force.
"Many of them have been very active with their children’s schools or
scouts or their church. They’ve held positions as treasurer or
secretary. We have them emphasize these accomplishments in their
resume," she says.
Don’t give too much information. While most employers are aware that
asking specific questions about age or marital status is illegal, that
doesn’t mean that they aren’t eager to find out, and many people still
tip their hands by putting
unnecessary information on their resumes.
"Listing the year you graduated from high school or college is a clue
to your age," says Brown-Kahney. "Listing exactly what years you
worked at each job is another give-away." She suggests leaving exact
dates off the resume.
Interview skills. Once the resume has gotten you in the door, the next
step is the interview. But an interview is not a one-way street. "The
person being interviewed should ask questions as well as answer them,"
Brown-Kahney says. "Ask the
interviewer what skills he or she thinks are needed for the job." This
gives you a clue as to what to emphasize in your answer. Even if you
feel that you are not strong in certain areas, showing enthusiasm and
a willingness to learn makes a good impression.