Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cover Letter Tips!

3 cover letter tips for people who haven't written one in forever

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article called "3 Editing Secrets That Will Make Your Cover Letter Even Better." To which a dear (and succinct and purposefully over dramatic) friend wrote, "Can't you just HELP ME WRITE MINE?!?"
Where was she stuck? In her words: "Is it terrible to say I haven't written [a cover letter] since college and don't even know where to start anymore?"
No, it's not terrible. And I think a lot of people — those changing careers, those who landed previous roles through networking and never submitted a formal application and those who have been in the same job for the better part of a decade — are all in the same boat. Here's what I recommend:

1. Remember "Out with the old, in with the new"

If you still have that old cover letter, floating around in a now defunct Hotmail or AOL account, you may be tempted to use it as a building block. And it's OK to review that letter (perhaps with a cocktail nearby) — as a study in what you sounded like at 22.
Maybe your cover letter went on and on about why working at your dream company would be, like, a dream. Maybe you said that even though you didn't have five years of experience, you were a quick learner. Reading this letter is good because everyone deserves a humorous reprieve from what can otherwise be a rather stressful job search.
Do not — I repeat, do not — try to work off of a cover letter that is several years old. First, you're starting by boxing yourself in. Why would you want to edit a document that you wrote back when you had a flip phone? Haven't your writing skills improved since then? Wouldn't you describe your earliest experiences differently in retrospect (or perhaps leave them out altogether)?
Give yourself the freedom to start fresh. Write new paragraphs about new experiences in ways that make sense now — not that fit whatever you thought "the rules" were in the early aughts. (Hint: They've changed.)

2. Get reading

Whenever friends ask me where to start with their cover letter, I send them three of my favorite Muse articles. I know it sounds too promotional to be true, but I often tell loved ones to read these and then let me know if they have questions. (It's my version of, "Take two and call me in the morning.")
I start with "How to Write a Cover Letter: 31 Tips You Need to Know." It's like a Russian nesting doll: It covers a ton of aspects of writing a cover letter — and many of the points link out to other articles. So, it's easy to take a deeper dive into a particular element that interests you.
Next up is The Daily Muse Editor-In-Chief Adrian Granzella Larssen's article, "The Pain Letter: The Best Way to Write a Cover Letter That Gets Results." The first two lines are: "Hiring managers don't just want people who can do the job. Ideally, they want people who will make their lives easier." If your cover letter skills are rusty, this article will walk you through what hiring managers really look for.
The third article I recommend is one I wrote called "Want a Better Cover Letter? Avoid These Extremes." (Hey, if you're going to write a cover letter, you can't be scared of a little self-promotion). Cover letters need balance — missing the mark could sink an otherwise strong application.
Yes, I know it's beyond predictable that someone who writes career advice would tell my friends the solution is to read career advice — but that doesn't discount its value. (Fun fact: I do the same thing with resumes, interviews and networking.)

3. Make yourself write a draft

Reading is important, because great advice can save you from sending out total duds. But here's what awesome articles can't do: They can't write your cover letter for you. Odds are, you only have a certain number of hours in the week to devote to job searching — and at some point, you'll need to bite the bullet and get writing already.
If you feel too nervous to even begin, ask yourself: What's the very worst thing that can happen? That you write a terrible cover letter?
Let's say that happens. The good news is, it's out of your system and never has to see the light of day. The better news is that now you have a true starting point, because you can review it for what isn't working.
Why don't you like it? If you think it's boring, focus on being more engaging. If you're worried someone reading it won't understand how qualified you are, find a way to highlight relevant skills through a story, rather than just listing them out. Once you write a draft, you will have already crossed one item off the list — you'll no longer be able to say you don't even know where to start.

See full article here!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Surviving Career Transitions

4 Strategies for Surviving Career Transitions Everyone Faces

When I was just starting out as a broadcast news reporter, a grizzled, veteran investigative reporter told me, "Congratulations on getting hired, kid, but don't get cocky; because you're not anybody in the news business until you're fired — twice."
Whether or not I ever became somebody in the news business is debatable; but, for the record, I was fired twice during the 10 years I worked as an on-air reporter and anchor.
Both times, what enabled me to overcome the stigma and humiliation of being canned can be summed up in one word — relationships. The relational approach to overcoming a "career bump" is showcased in a new career book titled Do Over by New York Times bestselling author Jon Acuff. In his book, he lists the four career transitions that every professional faces and the corresponding resources necessary to overcome each different transition.
So, whether you, too, have been fired or just presented with an interesting opportunity, read on to learn the best strategy to deal with your specific circumstance.

1. You've been fired

Immediately after I lost both jobs, I called all of my former colleagues to let them know I was out of work and looking for a gig. Each time, I was offered jobs within 72 hours because of the strong rapport I'd developed with colleagues over the years.
Relying on relationships after being fired — as Acuff recommends — makes sense. From my experience, the toughest part was convincing myself to actually pick up the phone to ask for help. The key to surviving that particular transition is swallowing your pride, growing some guts, and giving your network the chance to lend a hand.

2. You're in a dead-end job

The next transition that Acuff defines is "the ceiling," which is a job that you continue to do even when further advancement isn't possible. He writes that becoming unstuck in that type of situation requires the development of a new skill set.
I recently ran into this exact situation at my previous company. My last employer — a mid-sized biotech firm — was acquired by a much larger pharmaceutical company. Suddenly, the previously vacant rungs of the corporate ladder above me were crammed with folks from the acquiring parent company. It was clear I wasn't going to move up, and it was equally clear I couldn't let skills stagnate.
So, what did I do?
I started blogging and writing e-books in my spare time. I joined (and learned the ins and outs of) the major social media channels. I guest posted and wrote for dozens of online sites. I became a self-taught social media "guru" within my previous company. When that organization wanted to dip its toe into Facebook waters or conjure up a Twitter-based-campaign strategy, I was the guy they tapped because I was already there doing it.
But I didn't stop there. I continued to build and nurture my personal online brand. Once I felt ready to leave the organization, I compiled a metrics scorecard of my personal social media footprint (Twitter followers, Facebook likes, Alexa ranking of my blog, and so on) and then compiled the exact same stats for the life sciences companies I wanted to work for. Needless to say, I beat the pants off every company I met with and had three job offers to choose from!
Dealing with my "ceiling" required me to identify and develop the relevant skills that would add value to any prospective employer in the future.

3. You've decided to take a leap

The third career transition that Acuff cites is "the jump," where you voluntarily leap to a new career, location, or responsibility. He notes that this type of transition requires strong character because you're leaping into the unknown, which necessitates reliance on the foundational definition of who you are as well as your core values.
During the past nine years, I've relocated my family three separate times across three different states. That's a lot of "jumping" and disruption.
My family has survived and thrived because we trust each other and consider every voice when we make big, life-impacting choices. For what it's worth, each move has been a unanimous decision within my family. Mutual trust and agreement makes it so much easier to overcome upheaval.

4. You're faced with an unplanned opportunity

The last transition that Acuff references in his book is dubbed "the opportunity," where a positive situation unexpectedly manifests. While those moments tend to be few and far between for most people, Acuff writes that the resource you need to maximize "the opportunity" is hustle.
He defines hustle as how you work. In other words, it's the drive and commitment that pushes entrepreneurs and professionals to do the things that other people don't, enabling them to enjoy success that others won't.
This situation happened to me when I transitioned out of news media into my first corporate communications job. I was hired by a regional telecommunications company in the Northeast to be its corporate spokesperson. After 90 days, I received an email from the HR department notifying me that I was eligible for the company's educational benefit. I jumped at the chance, and — in two years of full-time course work and a full-time job — I completed my MBA.
It wasn't easy. Not only did it take a high degree of hustle, but it also took a lot of time. Part of hustle, therefore, is intentional time management and relentless prioritization.
Things are going to happen in your career. Some of them will be good, others not so good. Some transitions you'll orchestrate while some will be orchestrated at the hands of others. Regardless, if you couple relationships with guts, skills with foresight, character with mutual trust, and mix in aggressive hustle with kick-ass time management — nothing will stop you.

Find full article here!

Friday, May 8, 2015

20 Productivity Apps You Need to Organize Your Life

20 Productivity Apps You Need to Organize Your Life

Thanks to, and Adecco, here is an awesome list of 20 apps that will help with everyday organization! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Networking 101

Networking 101
Networking can feel like the professional equivalent of speed dating. And, like speed dating, you don't just want to make a good impression — you want to make a lasting one. So, how can you present yourself well and make meaningful connections when it feels like you're making small talk with people who are only half-listening?
The first step is to reframe your concept of networking. At your next event, remind yourself that it's less about empty chit-chat and more about making connections.
How do you make those?
By forgetting everything you thought you knew about networking small talk and, instead, tapping into the science of good conversation! Here are six strategies for being the most popular person to talk to at your next networking event.

1. Be easy to listen to

Sound expert Julian Treasure says conversation killers include gossip, judgment, negativity, complaining, exaggeration, accusations, and being a "blame-thrower." These types of communication are simply hard to listen to, he says. According to Treasure, the four powerful cornerstones of good conversation spell HAIL: honesty (being clear and straight), authenticity (being yourself), integrity (actually doing what you say you will), and love (wishing people well).
How do you do this in a quick networking conversation? You can be honest and authentic by asking genuine questions when a topic comes up that you know nothing about — instead of nodding along and pretending like you get it. When saying goodbye at the end of the event, think of something specific from your conversation that you can reference, then wish the person well. It's as easy as that.

2. Create conversational chemistry

positive conversations can induce the production of oxytocin. And oxytocin elevates our ability to collaborate and trust others. Conversations that show concern for others, are based in truth, and share a vision of mutual success are among those that result in this kind of good chemistry.

Instead of spending time trying to convince someone to see your side of an issue (a.k.a., trying to be controversial and groundbreaking), share a positive thought that's mutually beneficial and useful to the person you're talking to. You can prepare this positive thought ahead of time by looking up current, relevant industry news that would be interesting to the people you're meeting.

3. Encourage self-disclosure

It's common sense that we like to talk about ourselves, but there's actually a chemical reaction associated with self-disclosure that we find inherently rewarding. According to a study published in the Proceedings From the National Academy of Sciences, self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in dopamine centers of the brain, the same regions that respond to rewards like food and money.
So, create an environment that invites other people to tell you about themselves. A great approach is to come in with some great conversation starters to aid in the effort to draw people out. For example, instead of talking to someone about how his or her week is going, you can get specific and ask, "What was the highlight of your week?" The former usually leads to a short answer ("it's going"); the latter is a chance for the other person to really open up.

4. Ask for stories, not answers

Sharing stories creates a connection and stimulates an emotional memory that helps us give meaning to our experiences and interactions. Eliciting stories from people you're just meeting can also help you get a lot more information, as well as a better understanding of where they are coming from, both literally and metaphorically.
Refrain from asking "What do you do?" or "Where are you from?" Instead ask: "What are you working on these days?" or "What was the town like where you grew up?"

5. Skip the small talk

Research suggests that talking about more substantive issues can actually make us happier than engaging in traditional small talk. Slipping some details into small talk can elevate the conversation to a greater level of engagement.
So, if someone asks where you're from, add a bit of trivia about your hometown. Or if someone asks what you do, talk briefly about what drew you to the profession. Either answer should lead to the person inquiring more about what you said, which gets you away from chit-chat and closer to having a memorable exchange.

6. Use your instrument to its best capacity

Having meaningful conversations doesn't just have to do with what you say, but also how you say it. You'll come off as much more interested (and interesting) if you vary your tone so you don't sound monotone or disengaged. Try speaking slower and quieter, which can actually draw people in. Also, don't be scared to embrace silence; it's better than filling the space with "ahs" and "ums."