The Plight of the Recent College Grad

Posted on July 9, 2009. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , |

Meet Sara. You probably know many others like her. She just graduated from college, and she is facing her first real job search. Not only is she discovering the job market is flooded with thousands of other entry-level candidates, but she is also realizing that college did not really prepare her for answering that all important job search question: “What are you looking for?”

As Sara continues through her job search, I’ve asked her if she would share some of her experience from time to time. As one of our “noddlers” at NoddlePlace.com, we encourage other grads like her to come join us and band together. After all, “two are better than one…[and] a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Sara’s Journey:

This past May, I received my BAs in English and Communications. All of senior year, my intention was to graduate and settle into a nice, entry-level, marketing or public relations position with a local company and start real life.

Fail.

I graduated cum laude with a 3.7 GPA, a semester abroad, an internship, a portfolio, as well as some various club and volunteer activities, and I have yet to be called for an interview. My parents’ stress level is growing with each passing week, and they have begun to hint that graduate school may be my best option, despite the fact that, at 22 years old, I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

People have told me that I need to look at this “setback” as an opportunity to experience life before being sucked up into a corporate whirlwind of money, bills, and time-management. Apparently, this is my time to travel the world, meet new people, and discover myself; “live it up,” so to speak. And although that might sound fine and dandy for some people, I’m not too comfortable with such an unpredictable future.

So, for now, it’s me against the job market and who-knows-how-many other college graduates vying for the same position. Resumes and cover letters have been rewritten, revamped, and sent out with little to show for it. I have joined many of the job networking websites like LinkedIn and Noddleplace and scoured the Internet for job leads.

Nothing. Something isn’t working.

It took me a long time and a lot of rejection before I realized why I’m not making any progress: I have no idea what I want to do.
People ask me what kind of job I’m looking for, and I stare blankly at them and stutter. Maybe I do need to go “live it up” in Europe and drink away all of my cares and responsibilities overseas, awaiting the glorious epiphany that will determine the rest of my life.

Or maybe I can make some progress in my job search, by looking for more real-world experience.

Since graduating, I have arranged for enough internships to carry me through the end of the year. If I’m not going to get hired, then I’m going to do everything I can to get experience, which includes working for free, in the industries I’m interested in. These internships are helping me build a network and get me the experience that will eventually give me a leg up on my competition. I’m still applying for jobs daily, but for now, I’m going to take it one day at a time until I figure out what I am supposed to do.

So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?
My name is Stephen Van Vreede. My company is called No Stone Unturned, and I have spent 15 years on both sides of the corporate hiring experience.

The short story is that I have an MBA in Marketing from Villanova University and a dual B.S. degree in Finance & Logistics from the University of Maryland. I am a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). As I mentioned, I paid my dues in the corporate world eventually running a large-scale call center for a major truck rental company, and I have spent the past 7 years with No Stone Unturned, assisting job seekers in achieving their goals.

In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: NoddlePlace.com. It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Job Seekers on Edge – My Top 5

Posted on June 25, 2009. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , , |

With unemployment rates soaring and job seekers in abundance, is it just me or have we all started this year a little on edge? As a career services professional, I have come across more manic, depressed, and generally angry people over the last several months than I have ever experienced. And I have to say that I am starting to get very concerned.

Don’t get me wrong. I love working with job seekers. That is why I do what I do! Each year, I have the privilege of serving about 600 people. And it is very rewarding to know that I can play a part in assisting someone in finding their next job, be it through creating a resume, setting a job search strategy, or working on retainer as they go through their job search ups and downs.

Like any job that deals with the public directly, however, you always come across a few candidates who, let’s just say, have much deeper issues than needing a new job. It’s one of the challenges of my line of work. But starting back in October 2008, right about when the big bank bailout bash came to a head, I started noticing a disturbing trend. Clients were facing more strain and anxiety than ever before.

And with the freedom that e-mail seems to bring to people, they started coming out of the gate, swinging, not just at me but at anything they could get their hands on.

To give you an idea of the kinds of things I’ve seen, here are the top 5 e-mails I’ve received. (Keep in mind that in each of these cases, these conversations took place before any service was delivered. We were in the “getting to know you” phase.):

• Job Seeker #1: He had a unique request for his resume:

“I’ll give you bonus points if you use the word ‘beguile’ in my resume because that’s what I do, deceive prospective clients into buying whatever [expletive] I’m asked to sell.”

At first, I thought he was joking, but no, he insisted that beguile be used in the resume.

• Job Seeker #2: He sent me a breakdown of his employment history:

“2006-2007: RECOVERING FROM SELF-INFLICTED GUNSHOT WOUND. God IS CRUEL – why didn’t he take me?”

Sadly, he too was not kidding.

• Job Seeker #3: This client decided that the upfront approach was the best way to start out our relationship together:

“Let me be clear. I’m only doing this because my wife thinks it can’t hurt. I’ve been out of work for 4 months. I just gave you the grocery money, so my kids are now starving. I bet you think that is pretty funny, huh?”

Let’s just say that I promptly returned this gentleman’s money.

• Job Seeker #4: Apparently, this client was looking for converts:

“This may not help my efforts with you but: May you come to know the love of Satan. Best regards, Joe”

• Job Seeker #5: In response to a question that I posed regarding his goals:

“I love nuclear weapons. Maybe I will get to see one go off someday.”

And just for good measure, here is one more: Job Seeker #6, another one who wanted to let me know the terms upfront:

“I placed a curse on my last resume writer. I told him that when something terribly bad happens to him, he should think of me.” Of course, as with any form of e-mail correspondence, you never know how seriously to take these things, but unless I am just experiencing some kind of Twilight Zone moment in which I just happened to enter into the realm of craziness, I suspect that these correspondences (and other milder ones I’ve received) are just a reflection of the general frustration that has swept many people, job seekers in particular.

As a resume writer and job search coach, I’ve been through unemployment highs before. And they are always difficult, to say the least, but one thing I know for sure: bitterness, extreme anxiety, paranoia, rage…bad characteristics to bring into a job search, even if you are just speaking with your resume writer.

You know, maybe now more than ever is the time for job seekers to come together, to put into action some of that spirit of unity that was so highly talked about on during Inauguration Day. After all, group job hunting has consistently been touted as one of the most effective ways for job seekers to find out about job opportunities and to build their network. So why not channel that frustration into something productive?

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Job Search Distractions

Posted on June 2, 2009. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , |

As I work with job seekers of all levels and across multiple industries, I have come to realize that they all have one thing in common: They are all human. “Well, that’s obvious,” you may say. But what I mean by that is that they are all faced with distractions that can prevent them from conducting an effective job search.

Why are distractions more prevalent in a job search?

Some of you may be wondering why distractions are more of an issue during a job search compared with everyday life. Different people have different reasons. For some, just a change in the routine is enough to get them off balance and easily distracted. For others, it is a simple case of dreading the “unknown”—and let’s face it, there are many unknowns in the job search process—and those that dread the unknown will either procrastinate or simply find other things to do so that they don’t have to do the uncomfortable things.

What are some of the “Unknowns”?

Well, let’s see. Where should I start? For beginners, putting together a document that presents your work history and positions it so that it is meaningful to prospective employers is not an easy thing to do. So many job seekers will delay their search until their resume is perfect, which it never is. Deciding what you want to be—and how to position your information accordingly—is another difficult decision that prevents many from moving on to the actual search part of the job search process.

Some of the other unknowns and fears include questions like “what if my current employer finds out I’m looking,” “what if the recruiter tells me I’m not marketable,” “what if ABC Company doesn’t like my resume,” and “what if I send this resume and never hear back from anyone?”

Common Distractions

For job seekers that are employed full time, there are obvious challenges to conducting a job search. However, what most don’t recognize is that it takes a tremendous amount of discipline to be able to conduct an effective, efficient job search when you are a full-time job seeker. Why is that? Well, for one, most full-time job seekers conduct their search using their home as their “office.” For those that have never tried working from home before—and by that I mean actually performing work at home, not just checking voice mail and email—distractions are abundant.

I am always amazed at the number of job seekers on Twitter, who go there because they have heard it is a useful resource for conducting a job search, that do not really use the forum to do anything but talk about the fact that they are in a job search and that they hate it. As I write this, I am doing a search on the term “job search” in Tweet Deck. I have come across numerous entries from regular job seekers. Refreshingly, the first one I see says “I’m up early and plotting out my job search strategy.” Another, more typical post, says “Day 2 of search for job. 90% of plans for the day are unrelated to this goal…” Many posts will talk about doing the laundry, washing the car, cleaning the house, going out to lunch, and any other activity that can take a person’s time away from having to actually perform the job search. In fact, one post even says the following statement that I think is even more true than the author realizes, “I need more discipline to get this job search going! please send some positive thoughts and energy to help me fight the lazy demon. hahaha.”

How Do You Overcome the Distractions?

The key to removing, or at least limiting, the distractions that prevent you from conducting your search is in planning from both a strategic and tactical level. Put simply, you must prepare a high-level plan to define your end goal (that’s the strategy part). However, you must also map out a path for how you will achieve that goal. This pathway includes all the little steps that must take place along the way, including things like defining your job target, preparing a resume, identifying companies you would like to work for, determining the different search techniques you will use, and setting daily goals to make sure you stay on task.

As one of the tweets indicates above, you need to plot this thing out, and better early in the process too. If you are not a really self-disciplined person, than it is even more important that you do so, or you will find that the little distractions eat up 5, 6, or more hours of your 8-hour day, which was supposed to be spent as a full-time job seeker.

So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?
My name is Stephen Van Vreede. My company is called No Stone Unturned, and I have spent 15 years on both sides of the corporate hiring experience.

The short story is that I have an MBA in Marketing from Villanova University and a dual B.S. degree in Finance & Logistics from the University of Maryland. I am a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). As I mentioned, I paid my dues in the corporate world eventually running a large-scale call center for a major truck rental company, and I have spent the past 7 years with No Stone Unturned, assisting job seekers in achieving their goals.

In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: NoddlePlace.com. It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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