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July 19, 2017

Don’t Ignore that Thank You Letter after the Job Interview

Think thank you letters are a thing of the past? Think again. A well-written thank you letter can be a prominent ally. And your best friend. It’s not just to say thanks for meeting with me. It’s that and more.  It’s an additional opportunity to shine just a little more after the first interview and a time to influence the interviewers to hire you for the job.  What you’re getting at, in addition to thanking them for their time, is one last thing that will set you apart favorably from the other candidates. Here’s a list of some options to include in your thank you letters.

  • Specify something about you (or an accomplishment or skill) that wasn’t touched upon during the interview.
  • Highlight one of your strengths.
  • Let them know why you’re interested in the position.  
  • Tell why you’re a good fit for the company.
  • Link your skills and accomplishments with those required for the job.
  • Throw in a new skill you’re learning that pertains to the job.
  • Explain how you can save (or make) the company money or time. 
  • Share a professional experience to buttress your skills or accomplishments needed for the job.
  • Provide links to your online portfolio, your LinkedIn account, or your other professional social networking profiles.
  • Mention something you like about the interview, the company, the job, or the interviewer.
  • Indicate how you resonate with the company or the job.
  • Reference how you can solve the company’s  complication or challenge that might have been mentioned during the job interview.

Most of all, the letter should professionally represent you from a professional standpoint. And it should reveal to the reader another facet of you that didn’t come up during the interview. Don’t just re-state what’s on your resume or what you said during the interview.

A thank you letter just might be the deciding factor between hiring you—or not. So take the time to craft a thank you letter that grabs (and maintains) the attention of the reader.

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uly 14, 2017

7 Tips to Counteract the Stress of Unemployment

Looking for a job isn’t an easy feat. Yes, the stress is real. And it’s probably not going to magically disperse on its own. How well are you managing the strain of unemployment or underemployment? From anxiety to headaches to mild depression to over-eating to feeling overwhelmed, the physical, emotional, and mental manifestations of   stress can be troublesome to deal with and manage. And sometimes debilitating.

Act now and implement these 7 strategies, from New Jersey Career Connections, to neutralize your apprehension and uneasiness, so you can be at peak performance. Start to engage these stress busters in your daily schedule.

1. Accept and Embrace your New Role: Job Seeker

In this role, you actually have two broad tasks:

  • Manage your job search. The information and resources on careerconnections.nj.gov and at your local One-Stop Career Center can help you do this.
  • Maintain a positive mindset. Because self-confidence and optimism are vital ingredients for a successful job search, staying positive is as important as the actual job-search activities.

2. Focus on your Strengths

Sustain your confidence and self-esteem by intentionally emphasizing the positive.

  • It’s vital to Identify Your Strengths to pinpoint your capabilities that employers will find valuable. Doing this will remind you of your past successes.
  • Track and celebrate the progress you make in achieving short-term goals, developing new skills, and successfully completing the steps or using the resources you’ll find throughout careerconnections.nj.gov.
  • Take pride in your ability to persist in the face of the psychological challenges you’re facing. Unemployment or underemployment is one of the more difficult situations we can face. Persevering in spite of such difficulties is an achievement in itself.
  • Quickly spot self-defeating thoughts when they occur -- and challenge them. If you catch yourself thinking, "I’ll never get a job," respond by telling yourself, "I’m going through a rough stretch, but this will end. I can take specific actions that will bring me closer to finding a job I’ll enjoy. I’m making progress. I have a lot of skills and experience to share. Somewhere out there, there’s a business that will be very fortunate to gain the capabilities that I can offer. I just need to connect with it and educate the hiring decision makers in that organization."
  • Recognize that being unemployed or underemployed can provide opportunities to discover, acquire or strengthen skills, to rethink your career priorities and to reflect on how you want to spend the next phase of your life. At the very least, you’ll have a chance to practice your problem-solving and planning skills.

3. Develop a Productive Routine

There’s a lot of truth to the saying, "searching for a job is a full-time job." Create a Plan of Action to establish a productive routine for launching and sustaining an effective job search.

  • Devote between six and eight hours a day, five days a week, to job search activities.
  • As much as possible, maintain the daily habits you had when you were employed. Get out of bed at the same time you did when you were working, shower and get dressed, leave the TV and other distractions off. Now you can focus on searching for employment opportunities and connecting with employers who are hiring.
  • Each night before you go to bed, make a list of actions you’ll take the following day and the mini-goals you intend to accomplish.

4. Focus on What You Can Control

Break problems and larger goals into manageable chunks and take effective action on those things.  To accomplish this, Create a Plan of Action.

  • If you have a job interview, a key meeting, or another important and stressful event coming up, list everything you can do to prepare for it and then work your way through the list. Once you’ve completed all the tasks, relax. If you find yourself worrying about the upcoming event, remind yourself that you’ve done everything you can and that you’re prepared.
  • If you’re dealing with an unfamiliar challenge, identify all the possible options, learn as much as you can about each option, consider the pros and cons for each, and choose the one that makes the most sense. Imagine what could happen if the worst-case scenario happens -- and consider what other actions you could take to deal with possible problems.

5. Build and Leverage a New Social Network

  • Don’t let embarrassment or a bruised ego keep you from tapping into the best source of information about employment opportunities: the people you are routinely in contact with, so be sure to Nurture and Leverage Your Personal Support Network.
  • Tell everyone you know that you're looking for work, and also tell them about the skills and experience you can offer an employer.
  • Keep track of the contacts that people suggest to you.
  • Spend as much time as possible with positive people and avoid those with persistently negative attitudes.
  • Join a job club or support group. The Warren County Library offers monthly networking and support groups for job seekers. Ask about Jersey Job Clubs and other helpful groups at your local One-Stop Career Center.

6. Assess your Current Spending and Income

To reduce the anxiety caused by financial worries, review your situation and take steps to deal with immediate concerns. Balance spending with your income and resources with a Personal Budget and Financial Assessment and using Budget Building Tools and Resources for more practical steps you can take to balance spending with your income and resources.

  • List all your regular bills: rent or mortgage, utilities, car or other payments, costs of insurance, usual food costs.
  • List spending that is not fixed: meals or social nights out, movies and other entertainment, transportation, clothing, gifts.
  • Consider ways that you could reduce spending in each category. For example, make your food dollars stretch further, buy clothes at a thrift shop, use less expensive transportation, tap into subsidies for insurance, give gifts of your time or skills, or find other ways to reduce spending.
  • Consider ways that you can supplement your earning power. Can you do any part-time, temporary, or occasional work that doesn’t interfere with your job search? Can you barter skills and services with neighbors?

7. Counteract the Stress of Unemployment

  • Maintaining your emotional and physical health is the best morale booster.
  • Exercise each day for 30 minutes, if possible. Exercise relieves stress and improves mood.
  • Spend time each week doing things you enjoy. If activities involve others, even better. Those people can become part of your job search network.
  • Volunteer your time and expertise to a cause that you consider worthwhile, or take temporary jobs. You’ll keep your current skills sharp, possibly acquire additional marketable skills, plug gaps in your work history, benefit from social contact, and, again, potentially grow your job search network.
  • Express your feelings in productive ways to a friend or confidant. Some people find it helps to write down their feelings on paper.
  • If you feel that stress or depression are holding you back, contact nonprofit mental health centers and county mental health agencies to ask if they provide free or low-cost counseling. If so, take advantage of their expertise.

Although we can’t live a life 100 percent free of exigencies, there’s much we can do to release the trepidation of today’s job seeker. Improvements to dealing with the excess worry of unemployment is just as essential as completing an online job application. So don’t neglect this not often talked about concern of job seekers. 

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July 10, 2017

Boost Your Resume

Most job seekers know that a resume gets looked at for a paltry of maybe 10 to 15 seconds—more like a glance. Not much time to grab anyone’s attention. Get your resume to shine and it most likely will get a longer look over, advancing your chances of being considered for an interview.

We’re all looking for that avenue to make our resume stand out amongst the others. After all, we want to move into the next phase of the job application process—the job interview. Well, this just might be it. According to New Jersey Career Connections, here’s how to create persuasive and powerful bullet points for your resume. Remember this formula:

Action Verbs + Details + Results = Impressive Bullet Point

Begin each bullet point with an action verb (examples include: implemented, mediated, reviewed, prepared, clarified, resolved, critiqued, operated, standardized, formulated, directed, overhauled, summarized, collaborated).  Avoid starting a bullet point with the words "Responsible for" and jump right to the verb that tells the resume reader what you did.

Next, add relevant details that show a clearer picture of what you did.

Then briefly describe what you achieved.  The easiest way to identify a result is to ask yourself:  "What was the reason for performing the task?  What would have happened if the task had not been performed?"  In some cases you might be able to describe a numerical impact (dollars, or improving performance by a specific percentage, saving or earning), but more likely you'll need to describe the result in more general terms.

Review these examples of “average,” “good,” and “excellent” bullet points.

Average Bullet Point

(Action Verb)

           

Good Bullet Point

(Action Verb)

           

Excellent Bullet Point

(Action Verb)

Answered customer phone calls

 

Answered an average of 25 customer calls per day. Answered questions, resolved problems, and recommended additional products or services they might find useful.

 

Answered an average of 25 customer calls per day. Answered questions, resolved problems, and recommended additional products or services they might find useful. Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as follow-on purchases. 

Drove a forklift truck

 

Drove a forklift truck, resupplied 12 work stations with all parts and materials needed to operate an assembly line.

 

Drove a forklift truck, resupplied 12 work stations with all parts and materials needed to operate an assembly line. Maintained an accident-free driving record for more than 3 years, and ensured the assembly line never shut down due to a shortage of parts.

Maintained delivery trucks

 

Performed comprehensive maintenance on 6 delivery trucks that averaged 14 hours of use per day and 30,000 miles per year.

 

Performed comprehensive maintenance on 6 delivery trucks that averaged 14 hours of use per day and 30,000 miles per year. Achieved a 98% availability rate and prevented thousands of dollars of unscheduled repair.

Developed and implemented new employee training program

 

Developed and implemented a training program for over 200 new employees on safety procedures and the correct use of tools and equipment.

 

Developed and implemented a training program for over 200 new employees on safety procedures and the correct use of tools and equipment, resulting in a sharp decrease in lost-time accidents, workers compensation claims, and employee turnover.

Processed invoices

 

Processed over 30 invoices per day quickly and accurately.

 

Processed over 30 invoices per day quickly and accurately, reducing average billing-to-payment cycle from 6 weeks to 3 weeks.

See how you can seriously vamp up your bullet points with this method? Adding details and results to your bullet points really enhance the bulleted item much more than just an action verb with a list of completed tasks.

Looking for more? Join us at an upcoming Polish Your Resume Workshop at the Warren County Library. Upcoming workshops are scheduled for July 13 and August 7, 2017. Register at www.warrenlib.org or call 908/475-6322.

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Don’t Brush Aside this Part of the Online Job Application

July 5, 2017

References still are part of the job application process, regardless of whether a potential employer contacts your references or not. Although providing a potential employer with job references seems like a trivial part of the hiring process, your references can help you “win” the job.

The first place you’re likely to encounter them is on the online job application, but the topic of references might come up later—perhaps during the job interview or post-interview follow-up.

Think again, before you list just anyone as a reference. Here are some tips from New Jersey Career Connections:

  • Before making a final hiring decision, employers usually ask for the names of several references -- people you have worked with who will vouch for your work ethic and character. It's a good idea to identify people with whom you have had a successful working relationship, and who are willing to share what they know about you.
  • Most employers will want to talk to three references. If possible, have four to six professional references ready to choose from, so you can rotate your references and avoid overusing any one person.
  • Talk to your potential references ahead of time and ask them for permission to give an employer their names and contact information. You can also remind them about your key strengths, successes, and experiences. Send them a copy of your resume so they'll be aware of the information you've sent the potential employer.
  • If you are targeting a specific position, give your references a copy of the job description.

I’m going to venture to guess that most job seekers aren’t using their references to gain the most optimal results. Ask yourself these five vital questions, crafted by John West Hadley of John Hadley Associates, LLC, Somerville NJ, to determine if you’re making the most of your references.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank your references, as they’ve gone out of their way to support you in your job search. 

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June 29, 2017

More to Offer: The Mature Job Seeker

The mature worker looking for a job can sometimes feel left out with rapidly changing computers and technology and feelings of being unable to compete with the younger workforce. The key is to have the view of being a valuable, viable, and qualified asset to any company or organization. And let your confidence shine.  You have years of valuable wisdom, skills, experience, knowledge, abilities, expertise, and life/work skills that the younger generation simply does not have. So be proud of that. And use that to your advantage.

So don’t dismay. Instead, delve into some of the following resources:

  • PathStone’s Senior Community Service Employment Program is great way for mature, unemployed workers to get paid while learning new skills at a local non-profit organization or agency. There are income and age requirements. Call Carmella Swayze in the Hackettstown office to discuss, 908/797-8494.
  • Rutgers University, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development’s New Start Career Network offers a variety of assistance for long-term unemployed/underemployed New Jerseyans, particularly those age 45 and older, to obtain jobs.
  • Get an overview of mature worker services  complied by New Jersey Career Connections.
  • Brush up on some essential tips for older job seekers in this article by The Muse.
  • The CheatSheet summarizes the top job search mistakes boomers make.

Ageism exists, but don’t let that deter you from finding your dream job. Armed with how to be a more savvy, seasoned job seeker, you can get that job offer sooner rather than later.

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June 26, 2017

What Elevator Pitch? Where to Start for Job Seekers

Yes, you need an Elevator Pitch. There’s no two ways around it. Your Elevator Pitch is a 30-second overview of you from a professional standpoint.  It gives someone a quick introduction as to who you are, what kind of job you’re looking to find, your skills, experience, and accomplishments, how you can be of value to a company.

Here’s a great place to start: the old adage “Know thyself,” the key to a fantastic Elevator Pitch. You really need to know yourself professionally. As a guide to get you going, write down answers to these points:

  • Your strong points
  • Your weaknesses
  • Skills, accomplishments, and experience
  • Type of career/job you want
  • Industry and type of company where you want to be employed
  • What you bring to your new job and employer
  • Professional training, learning, and self-improvement
  • What you’re looking for in a new employer
  • Your ideal job/career/company
  • Professional goals, objectives, work philosophy
  • Your career vision and goals

What’s in the perfect Elevator Pitch? Check out New Jersey Career Connections Your Elevator Pitch and Forbes The Perfect Elevator Pitch to Land a Job.

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June 23, 2017

3 Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Was Job Searching

Yes, looking back in hindsight, I would have done things differently while I was looking for a job. But, as Andrew Lincoln said, “I would find myself getting deeply distressed if I lived in hindsight all the time.” Instead, I pass along to you my thoughts on this, in the hopes it will help you find a job sooner, rather than later.

TIME. I definitely should have scheduled my time much, much, much better. Though a normally organized, scheduled, non-procrastinating person, for some odd reason, when it came to looking for a job, I temporarily morphed into the queen of procrastination.  “Gee, I’ll just sweep the kitchen floor before I start.” Or “Let me go for a quick walk, then after the walk, I’ll start.” Or “Well, right after lunch, is a good time to start.” Sound familiar?

Action Step: Every day, follow a pre-planned schedule. Develop a week-long plan of action where you schedule into your daily calendar all types of job searching tasks. No more procrastinating. The good thing is, you can schedule in some time for fun, hobbies/interests, and socialization--and time for exercise too. Plus, you can easily make minor changes to it as necessary.

NETWORKING. Sure, I was networking. I was telling everyone I knew that I was looking for a job. That’s networking, right? Not quite. I wish I’d fine-tuned my networking skills. I think that would have opened up more possibilities for me as a job seeker.

Action Step: Develop your elevator pitch. Good networking starts with a fantastic elevator pitch, your 30-second introduction/overview as a professional. Take the time to develop your elevator pitch—and practice it in the mirror so you feel comfortable with it. Now, weave your elevator pitch into your networking approach.

SUPPORT. I wish I could have found a group of other job seekers. Their support, ideas, and encouragement would have been invaluable. It’s motivating to come together with a common issue and work through it together. I went at my job search by myself. And, believe me, that can be a lonely process. We all need support and someone to encourage and motivate us--and during the job search is no exception.

Action Step: Find a job seekers support group or a mentor who will encourage and support you. The Warren Library offers a monthly networking and support group. Check out the Warren County Library calendar for the schedule.

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June 19, 2017

How to Ace the Dreaded Job Interview Question

“So, tell me about yourself.” Seems innocent enough. Right? Not really. It’s a loaded statement that’s frequently asked during a job interview and one you want to answer to set you off as the best candidate for the job. You want to reply with a fabulous summary  of yourself professionally.  (And, no, the interviewer does not want to hear about your hobbies and interests, or recent vacation to the Bahamas, or the adorable shelter puppy you just adopted.)

Ideally, you want to come up with an answer tailored to each interview/job and prepare your answer prior to the interview, as it’s pretty much understood you’ll be asked this. I don’t think I’ve gone on an interview where they didn’t ask this. Not just what you say, but your presentation of this is vital too. Somewhere between not too nervous and not overly pushy. Confident and poised.

Ready to tackle this vexing question? Here’s a good article, How to Nail the “Tell Me about Yourself” Interview Question, to get you started. Other great job interviewing tips to brush up on include, Inside the Employer's Mind, Nailing the Interview and Be Your Best.

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June 16, 2017

6 Keys to Success Every Job Seeker Needs to Know

Today’s job seeker needs to take a savvy approach to landing a great job. These keys to success in your job search, provided by the New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development’s New Jersey Career Connections, can open up employment potential for you. You can easily kick your job search into high gear, by implementing these six ideas.

Although this list is the very basics, even if you’re ignoring one of these areas, it could be preventing you from securing employment. Take a serious look at all these items and ask yourself if you’re neglecting any of these areas. If you are, immediately take steps to get up to speed in that area. 

Also, look at this list to determine if you can do more in one or two areas, again perhaps resulting in job offers for you. Sometimes giving just an additional ten percent of effort in an area, can make a huge difference.

Accept change. The labor market is constantly changing. Learn about current trends, how to use them to your advantage, and pursue your career goals with confidence.

Take care of yourself. Don’t let unemployment stress get in the way of your success. Continue to socialize and do activities that energize you. Get your finances in order and reach out to social service organizations if you need help.

Connect with people. Interacting with people is the best way to uncover the “hidden job market.” Stay active in your community and your social network-- the next person you meet might hold the key to the next step in your career.

Make a plan. Your time is valuable. Decide what your career goals are, and put together a plan to achieve them. Learn about the labor market and focus on industries and positions that align with your plan.

Be your own spokesperson. No one is more interested in your success than you. Always be prepared to discuss your skills and experiences in a positive way.

Embrace technology. The internet and social media have changed how employers find and hire talent. Learn the do’s and don’ts of these powerful tools to help you land your next position.

The Warren County Library can help you get going with these six tips. We offer an array of free workshops and programs for job seekers. Go to the calendar at www.warrenlib.org or call 908/475-6322.