Friday, October 23, 2015

9 Phrases That Make You Sound Less Experienced Than You Are

As if you didn’t have enough on your plate while interviewing or at work, here is an article for phrases you should avoid. Often we can make simple mistakes while speaking on the spot, so this is a great article from giving you a heads up on how these phrases could make you sound less professional. Enjoy!

9 Phrases That Make You Sound Less Experienced Than You Are

When I started my first job, I was the youngest person in my organization. No, really. Although I could legally drink (barely), every single one of my 300-or-so co-workers was older and more experienced than I was.
I felt like the low woman on the totem pole — and worse, I probably acted like it. (Exhibit A: My email signature was hot pink and in Lucida Calligraphy font.)
But looking back, I shouldn't have let it affect me so much. Here's what I know now: It doesn't matter how much experience (or grey hair) you have compared to everyone else. You were hired to do a job and to work together with the people around you. So, the more you can position yourself as an equal, the more you'll be treated like one. While you shouldn't go to the other end of the spectrum and act like you're more important than the rest of your team, you should never feel afraid to present yourself confidently as a peer. (Oh, and this is true whether you're in your first job or joining the ranks of upper management.)
How do you do that? Here are a few commonly used words and phrases you want to avoid since they instantly make you sound more inexperienced — plus what to say instead to ensure you come across as the capable, competent professional you are.

1. "I don't know"

You certainly don't need to have all the answers all the time. None of us do. But answering your co-workers' questions with "I don't know" (and a blank stare) can make you look like you're not up to the job. Muse writer Sara McCord offers some great alternatives in this article, such as offering up what you do know ("Well, I can tell you that the report went to the printer on Friday") or responding, "That's exactly the question I'm looking to answer." Or, if you know you can get the information from someone else, try "Let's loop Devante in to confirm."

2. "I have to ask my boss"

It doesn't matter what level you're at in your career, there are certain things you're going to have to run by your boss. (Even CEOs have to ask the board for approval on important matters.) But that doesn't mean you have to end every conversation letting others know that you're not the one who can make the final decision.
Instead, try, "This all sounds great — let me just run our conversation by a couple people on the team before moving ahead." You'll sound like a thoughtful collaborator, rather than the lowly subordinate.

3. "Is that OK?"

When you do have to run something by your boss? Skip this line, which sounds like you have no idea if your recommendation is a good one or not, and use something like: "Let me know by Friday whether I should proceed."

4. "I am the [insert junior-level job title here]"

Here's a secret — if you have a not-so-impressive job title (and we've all had 'em), you don't have to broadcast it to everyone you work with, particularly if you're reaching out to potential clients or partners who are higher up than you are. I
In your next cold outreach email, trade "I'm the Jr. Marketing Assistant at Monster Co," for, "I work in Marketing at Monster Co, and I'm reaching out because…" It's still honest, but it makes you sound a bit more experienced.

5. "Very," "insanely," "extremely"

It's Professional Writing 101 to remove unnecessary adverbs from your language, not only because we all want shorter emails, but because these additional words tend to add emotion into what should be straightforward, fact-based communication. Quick: Which sounds like it came from a calm, cool professional: "I'm incredibly eager to get started, but I'm insanely busy this week — could we aim for next week when things will be way calmer?" or, "I'm eager to get started, but booked this week. Could we aim for next?"

6. "Hi, I'm Julie"

In a social setting, it's perfectly fine (in fact, expected) that you'll introduce yourself by first name only. But in a professional or networking setting, it can make you sound unsure of yourself, like you're someone who just happened to walk into the room, rather than someone who was invited to be there. Instead, share your full name and why you're there: "I'm Julie Walker, from the Marketing team."

7. "I" and "me"

As Aja Frost reported in this article: "Reducing your use of the word 'I' can actually make people view you as more powerful and confident... a psychologist from the University of Texas who analyzes how people talk for hidden insight, found that whoever uses the word 'I' more in a conversation usually has a lower social status."
Consider these two statements: "I would be so grateful if you would consider meeting with me next month. I'm very interested in your work, and I would love to meet you in person," and "Would you be available for a meeting next month? It would be great to learn more about your work and meet in person." The former veers into fangirl territory; the latter sounds like one accomplished professional addressing another.

8. "I'm available at whatever time is convenient for you"

Really, are you? If the person you'd like to meet with wrote back and said that 5:30 AM on a Tuesday morning was convenient, I'm pretty sure you'd disagree. (And even if you didn't, you'd look like you have nothing going on in your professional life.)
Try "Tuesday and Thursday afternoons work well, though I'm happy to be flexible," which sounds similarly agreeable, but also shows that you have an important schedule of your own.

9. "I hope to hear from you soon!"

Ending your emails hoping and praying that you'll hear from your recipient makes it sound like you think there's a good chance you won't. Instead, project confidence that the conversation will continue, with something like, "I look forward to discussing," or "I look forward to hearing from you."

Full article here!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

5 habits that can turn interviewers against you

Interviews can be intimidating; your career depends on it. The past few weeks our blog has given great advice on how to help with interviews and this is something you don’t want to miss! has an article about what habits can ruin an interview...make sure you avoid these at all costs! Enjoy!

5 habits that can turn interviewers against you

Having spent the last decade recruiting, I've had many a conversation with hiring managers after a candidate exits the interview. And, while I always hope for exceptional feedback, sometimes the news is not so glowing.
Sometimes, the candidate has done something so annoying to the interviewer that, at best, she is now questioning her interest in keeping this person in the running.
What are the things that drive interviewers the most crazy? Listen and learn.
1. You arrive super early
Everybody knows that you're an idiot if you show up late for an interview. It's completely disrespectful of the interviewer's time.
But showing up insanely early is also going to make you look like a jerk. Why? Because, when you arrive more than five or 10 minutes before your meeting, you're putting immediate pressure on the interviewer to drop whatever she may be wrapping up and deal with you. Or, she's going to start the interview feeling guilty because she knows she just left you sitting in the lobby for 20 minutes.
A secondary problem with showing up early is that it says, "Hi, I have absolutely nothing else going on in my life, so I'll just park it here in your company lobby." You don't want that. If you arrive super early, hang in the parking lot or a nearby coffee shop until just a few minutes before your scheduled time.
2. You're so over-rehearsed that you act like a robot
Once again, we all know not to show up to an interview completely unprepared.
Fewer of us, however, realize that it's entirely possible to arrive over-prepared. Are you someone who thinks through every possible question that you suspect might be asked, writes out verbatim "best answers," and then practices them in the mirror (or with a friend) until you're beyond exhausted?
You might think you're doing yourself a solid, but what you're actually doing is putting yourself at risk for coming across as robotic or, worse, disinterested.
When you're hyper-prepared and hanging on the edge of your seat waiting for certain questions for which you've prepared to be asked, you will likely have a very hard time engaging in genuine conversation with the interviewer.
And interviewers don't tend to hire detached people who can't seem to have a genuine conversation. Certainly walk in prepared, but force yourself to not memorize or over-rehearse the practice questions.
3. You head into the TMI zone
Is your underwear riding up your rear end as you sit in that interview? Did you totally run a red light (and nearly sideswipe a school bus) so that you could be on time? Did your husband lose $15,000 at a craps table in Vegas last weekend? How interesting — yet all completely off-limits conversation topics while you're in the interview.
Even if you're interviewing for a role within the most free-wheeling, fun-loving organization, the fact remains that you are in an interview. Never, ever get wooed into believing that the casual nature of the environment frees you to enter the TMI zone.
Be friendly and conversational, for sure. You want this crew to feel that you'll fit in around the joint. Just never, and I mean do not ever, cross the line into TMI. When in doubt, leave it out.
4. You're a clear and obvious WIIFM
Guess what interviewers want to know when they meet with you? First and foremost, they want to know what you can do for them. What can you do to make that company money, improve businesses processes, grow the organization and, importantly, make their lives easier?
That said, when you bust out with an immediate litany of WIIFM (what's in it for me?) questions, you look both arrogant and, frankly, unappealing.
Of course you want to know what the benefits are, how much vacation you get, and if you get a cell phone, company car, and corner office. But in the early interview stages, all the hiring managers and HR people really care about is what you can do for them. This is a business they are running, not a club.
Making you happy will be important if they want you, but you're not even going to get to that stage if you make your list of demands clear too early.
5. You don't say "thank you"
I'm not just talking about the after-interview thank you note here. Surely, sending an immediate thank you out to each person with whom you've met is critical. But it's also super important to thank the interviewer enthusiastically before you even part ways.
Certainly, it can be stressful and exhausting to shuttle through hours of interviewing at a company, to the point it all starts feeling like a bit of a blur. But if you really want this job, you need to stay focused and energized, and you absolutely must end strong. A strong, genuine,
"Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me — it was great to meet you" will go a long way.
"Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me — it was great to meet you" will go a long way.
Interviewing can be among the most stressful things we do as adults, especially when we need the job badly. It's definitely never a breeze. But keeping a cool head, arriving prepared to engage in conversation, and staying focused on the value you can bring to that organization is going to help you make it through with flying colors. People hire people, not robots, not jerks, and not people who don't value their time.

Keep this top of mind as you march forth and conquer.

Full article here!

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to eloquently explain gaps on a resume

Like the glaring Fs on the report card of the adult world, resume gaps are viewed as imperfections on our work record. It happens to the best of us. One day you're working, and the next day you're sitting at home wondering, "What's next?"
Maybe your gap is due to layoffs, or perhaps you decided you couldn't take a certain aspect of your job anymore. Either way, they can be tough both while you're in them and when you have to explain them to an employer. But if you use your time between jobs wisely, it can make you a more competitive candidate.  

Why you've got to be honest

It can be tempting to embellish your resume just a bit to scrub away those periods of time when you were out of work. You may try to rationalize it by telling yourself that it was only a few months, or that the recruiter will never find out. But in reality, recruiters can and often do find out — which burns a bridge for you immediately. Just play it safe and tell the truth.
Remember, you're interviewing for more than just a paycheck. You’re interviewing for a lasting relationship with an employer; a relationship that should be built on trust from both parties. Start out the relationship by lying, and it probably won’t go much further than chatting with the recruiter.
Besides, if you tell the truth to your advantage, you may be able to make those resume gaps work for you.

How gaps can work to your advantage

Your resume gaps aren't the first ones employers have seen, and they don't mean you're out of the running — unless you handle them poorly. Recruiters don't ask you about gaps because they're terrible — they simply want to know what you were doing so they can get a more complete picture of who you are as a candidate. 

So really, whether your gaps are glaring blemishes or points of interest is really up to you.

Think about it: Most professionals have likely hit a spot in their career when they felt like they needed to take a detour. Sometimes it takes a little time and effort to get from where you are to where you want to be. The key is to make that time out of work seem deliberate or welcomed.
Also, remember that many people intentionally plan to take extended time off after long periods of work. They're called sabbaticals, and they're actually pretty common. Treating your resume gap like a sabbatical gives the impression that you're in control of your time and your life — not living paycheck to paycheck.
Of course, to be able to treat a gap this way, you have to do a couple of things: 1) financially prepare for those inevitable gaps so you can afford to be thoughtful about your sabbatical time instead of desperately job hunting, and 2) actually use the time off for personal development — not a time to sit at home and relax (you can do that during your vacation time at your dream job). The ability to treat your gap as an opportunity to launch a new career, instead of a misfortune, will make you even more attractive to your recruiter.

How to strategically fill a resume gap

Start with the end in mind: The gap is what you make it. If you use the time to identify your real calling and ideal employer, being out of work could end up being the greatest thing to happen in your career. To avoid having another gap soon, be thoughtful about what your end goal will be.
Make a list of what you need: After you identify the goal, it will help to make a list of attributes and skills your target employer will want. Many companies are willing to do exploratory interviews with candidates to help them understand which qualities and skills they look for in employees. Then, when the company calls you back for an interview down the road, you've already set expectations about what you were doing during your resume gap: You were working to become their ideal candidate.
Once you’ve determined the type of training that will make you more hirable, go get it. This is where you make the difference between a constructive gap and a destructive gap. Here are some ways to do that:
  1. Take classes and get training: In the next five years, there's projected to be a shortage of five million knowledge workers. And there are a lot of ways to make yourself one of those wanted five million. You can take classes online, at a university or college or enroll in a local technical program. Whether it's a planned set of courses or a deliberate self-designed curriculum, differentiating yourself through training is a strategic way to go after a new career, make yourself more attractive and fill a resume gap.
  2. Freelance: You may end up not needing to explain your career gap to anyone. More than 53 million Americans currently freelance — and almost half use it as their primary income.  If there's something you're really passionate about and do well, consider trying out a freelancing career. If it doesn't work out, you’ll likely have a few projects to show for it — and technically, you won’t have a career gap to explain because you'll have had jobs.
  3. Volunteer or intern: What you do doesn't have to make money. Experience is worth more than cash — three out of four human resource executives said the skills and experience acquired while volunteering make a job candidate more desirable. If your dream company has an opening for an internship in your dream department, check out the opportunity. If it's possible that you could move into a paid position after a couple of months, it might be a good way to get your foot in the door. Or, look for a philanthropic opportunity to give you experience in your desired field.
  4. Travel: Use your gap as an opportunity to learn a new language or grasp another culture. Multilingual employees are able to process information more quickly than others and are predicted to become even more in-demand in the coming decade. Traveling is a great way to expand your worldview — which international companies will love. Plus, it's fun.
Being in between jobs can be disappointing and difficult to talk about with recruiters. Don't ever lie to cover up gaps or you may be ruining chances for good work relationships; instead, turn the situation into a highlight you're proud of. Show employers that you're a self-starter with initiative by finding out where you want to be and what you need in order to get there, and then by going out and getting it. Resume gaps can be the launch point of a new, more fulfilling career. It's up to you how you decide to construct and control that time.

You can find the article here!