Common career seeking questions:
Q: I have confidence in my abilities, but when I go to interviews, self-doubt always seems to take over. How can I better project my confidence?
A: Start by reinforcing your confidence by working with your career counselor. They should be one of your biggest cheerleaders — telling you the strengths they see in you, and contrasting them with the doubts you may feel. They then can help you adapt your self presentation to highlight your skills and experience. Practice interviews can also be a big help in overcoming anxiety or self-doubt.
Q: I don't like to network because it seems so phony — just a premise for asking for a job. How can I be more effective?
A: To network successfully, you need to believe that you have just as much to offer the networking partner as they do you. If you don’t believe that about yourself, go back and work with your career counselor on your stories (singular accomplishments) until you do. Then, get after it. I know so many people who have benefited from networking, then later been contacted for help by that same person.
Q: How important is it to include a cover letter with a resume? Can they help or are they a waste of time?
A: A cover letter can be very helpful to summarize how you line up with the skills and experience the job requires. I usually recommend a cover letter with bullet points, limited to 6-8 bullets, showing what a good fit you are. Match them exactly to the most important job responsibilities and qualifications from the job posting. Bullets should be short and sweet, a single line each if possible. Doing this cannot hurt, and may very well help you stand out.
Q: I've been unemployed for a while now, and can’t even get a response to my job applications. With over 30 years of experience, shouldn’t there be firms that need my skills?
A: Many job seekers over 45 report similar experiences. For older job seekers, there are some companies that will consider you, and others that will not. Your job is to find the ones that will.
Having said this, you may wish to rework your resume to focus of your most recent 10-15 years of experience. Rarely will a reviewer care what your were doing before that. You may consider omitting older jobs, along with the years you received your education/degrees. Also, it is critical to work on the stories you want to tell in an interview, and highlight those as bullet points in your resume. A career counselor can help with this. Finally, bringing energy and enthusiasm to your phone and in-person interactions may be the single most important thing you can do.
Q: What does it mean when the in-person interview ends with "We are interviewing a few more candidates and we will keep you posted."?
A: Pretty much just what it says. Check the non-verbals, but otherwise take it at face value. Not everything is in code.
Q: I've been looking diligently for work for several months now. I am careful to tailor my cover letter and resume to the specifics of the job responsibilities and qualifications. Once I have completed an application, I try to contact the lead recruiter to introduce myself, then follow up weekly.
I’m working hard to stay positive and keep improving my presentation, hoping to land an interview, but my inability to get feedback from employers is frustrating. I have expanded the scope of my search, with no success. What do I do now?
A: First off, devote more of your time to networking. A good career counselor, or a resource such as the classic What Color is Your Parachute, can help you with this. Networking is a much higher payoff activity. As a result of your various positions and your education, there should be many people you can reconnect with. Do so by phone or email and request a short meeting. The goals of a networking meeting are to get advice and learn from the individual. The goal is not to find a job. Because your contact can certainly give you information and advice, and since they responded to your initial contact, they will probably be willing to. On the other hand, most people don’t know of openings at any given time, and may feel put on the spot if you ask about them. Meanwhile, by the questions you ask, you will be demonstrating your competence and experience.
Q: I have had several jobs during the pasts year for reasons outside my control. How can I explain this fast turnover without appearing to be a job hopper or problem employee?
A: I may be in the minority here, but I see no reason to report all the jobs on your resume if in doing so you do not create an obvious gap. By all means report those jobs that you want to talk about.
Q: I'm getting phone calls and email from people that obviously haven't read the details of my resume. It's like they match one acronym on the page and send out an email to you! I hesitate to call these people recruiters they are just blasting anything that looks similar.
A: If your resume includes your home address and/or a phone number, remove them (unless your home phone is your only contact number). See if that reduces the number of contacts. Beyond that, this is hard to avoid when you post your resume on a job platform - something I am not really a fan of in the first place.