Are there some phrases to avoid in your job search?

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Lewis Levin advises job seekers to avoid hackneyed phrases when speaking to potential employers. Consider these:

  • ‘next generation’
  • ‘flexible’
  • ‘robust’
  • ‘world class’
  • ‘scalable’
  • ‘easy to use’
  • ‘cutting edge’
  • ‘well positioned’
  • ‘mission critical’
  • ‘market leading’
Lewis says that researchers have found that these were the six most commonly used phrases in press releases.
Whenever possible, replace cliched marketing phrases with specific examples. Instead of saying that you worked on a “mission critical” project, explain what it was specifically that made your work so valuable. For example, you can say, “By working as effectively and hard as I did, I allowed the company to complete a release of its product by the quarter-end deadline, allowing it to realize revenues from a client sale at a time when the company was under severe pressure to demonstrate that it was translating ideas into cash.”

If you can’t come up with a more specific phrasing, it’s possible you can do without the phrase altogether. I wouldn’t sweat it though, if you’re using these phrases. There are good reasons that marketing departments use the phrases so commonly: when they are backed by credible claims they help you to convey the significance of the value you add.

Blogging can attract the eye of recruiters for Microsoft, Amazon, and others

Working_in_Dali_ChinaA recent article by Randy Woods highlights the importance of blogging and other aspects of online identity in conducting today’s job search. He shares one success story, Liz Stinson, who landed a job at Microsoft only months after starting a technology blog:

“I had maybe five regular blog readers,” says Stinson, who mostly read white papers and other Web articles about Azure and “boiled down the language” to explain how it works. Luckily for Stinson, one of those readers was a recruiter for Microsoft who had been searching the Web for terms that relate to Azure. The recruiter was intrigued enough by the blog to arrange for Stinson, who lived in the Bay Area, to interview in Redmond.

About six months later, Stinson was hired as the new security program manager for Windows Azure. “I had only just started looking for a job,” she says. “So this was weirdly serendipitous.”

Blogs help in a number of ways: by communicating your passion for the subject, by showing off your knowledge of current industry trends, and by helping to establish your unique individual voice.

In some ways, blogs are the resumes of the future. They demonstrate your competence in an area of importance to potential importance far more convincingly and in-depth than a one- or two-page document. Moreover, they aare recruiter and hiring manager magnets, giving you an opportunity to continually interact with thought leaders in your field and position yourself as one of them.

How to keep busy during unemployment

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Allan Hoffman, the Monster Tech Jobs Expert, recently created a list of 10 things that you can do while unemployed. Here are my three favorites:

Be a Consultant

Don Sutaria, founder and president of CareerQuest, a New Jersey-based career coaching firm, advises those involved in a drawn-out job search to set themselves up as an independent consultant by getting business cards and a Web site. Your assignments may be small ones, but being a consultant allows you to market yourself as someone active and involved in your field.

Join a Job Seekers Group

Churches, libraries and other organizations often host groups for job seekers, Sutaria notes. These groups often serve to help people make contacts and provide support.

Build Social Networks

With jobs and other commitments, many people find they don’t have time to develop the sort of social networks crucial to a productive life — and career. “They get it done after they get everything else done,” says career coach Lynn Berger, who recommends people spend time expanding social networks. Those connections often mean as much as professional ones during a job search. “You start talking to your neighbor, and you learn they know X, Y and Z,” she says.

Of course, you can use the downtime for recuperation and relaxation. But it would be a missed opportunity not to develop your professional skills in some way. Go ahead, stretch your wings.

Phony references: A sign of desperate times

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An unscrupulous company offering a service to job seekers has recently come to my attention through one of the professional association lists that I belong to, and I would like to warn job seekers. The company purports to sell job seekers “excuses” in order to deceive potential employers.

For example, if you want to invent an employer in your work history that doesn’t exist, they will provide a phone number that prospective employers can call to get a receptionist who will transfer them to a voice mail box. Once they leave a message asking to verify employment or for a reference, the fake company will fax, e-mail, or phone the company back with a phony reference.

The same company offers several other unethical and deceptive services, and no other career professional that I’ve heard from knows anything about whether it’s an actual business or a total fraud or scam. The site’s own blog says the company used to be US but was sold to a UK concern. (I don’t feel comfortable supplying a Website address for the company, so don’t ask.)

Follow common sense and decency and stay far away from services like this or any other attempt to deceive potential employers. Not only is it wrong, and not only can it get you fired from any company unfortunate enough to hire you, but it can damage your professional reputation for a very long time.

Jason Alba: Write your job search success story

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Picture yourself unemployed and feeling a bit discouraged. Now imagine that you’ve landed back on your feet and happily working in a new and stimulating environment. Now suppose that a journalist interviewed you and wrote your “success story” for the local newspaper.

Don’t wait for that scenario to play out, says the career book author Jason Alba. Write the success story yourself NOW, he says, while you’re unemployed. He pens:

I’ve often thought I should take a well-written article… one I really connect with, and rewrite it so that it tells my story. From the early days to the days of “success” (whatever that is)… I’ll document what will happen as if it already happened.

Similar to a vision statement but different – with narrative and information that a reporter might gather and write.

Why don’t you take an hour or two and write your own job search story… not what you’ve been through but what you will go through. Perhaps something like this:

See his post here for an example.

The technique he describes just might be uplifting and thought-provoking. But another benefit that I see is that it could help to break you out of a sense of self-absorption that sometimes accompanies a period of unemployment. By seeing yourself and your situation from a more objective perspective (i.e., the hypothetical reporter’s POV), you may be able to gently release your attachment to the intensity of feeling surrounding your current situation. As a result, you may taste greater equanimity that can be of emotional and spiritual benefit in a time of stressful transition.

While you’re at it, why not write in your success story about how your negative feelings were transmuted during your successful search, or how any self-defeating patterns or obstacles were overcome when you reached a better place?

What should you say in a cover letter?

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Everyone has an opinion on cover letters, and mine isn’t so much different from The Career Doctor. Randall recently blogged:

Always err on the side of being brief, so no more than one page, and really about four paragraphs total. If it’s an email cover letter, it should be even shorter…. The first paragraph must engage the reader. Make it dynamic. Make it weave the reader into the rest of the letter. Don’t waste it with some boring formulaic sentence. The second and third paragraphs give specific details that highlight your qualifications and your fit with the position and the organization; if possible, use some of the employers own words here. Your last paragraph should thank the reader and request an interview. You should also say you plan to follow-up the letter at a later date — you must be proactive.

That’s a pretty good start, though I would say that having a “dynamic” opening paragraph isn’t nearly as important as simply contextualizing the rest of the letter in a brief, competent way. Be direct, if dynamic isn’t possible. It’s the heart of the letter that needs to be dynamic.