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References Go Both Ways

When you apply for a job, there’s a good bet your former employers are going to get a call about you. What they say, or  don’t say, could keep you from your next job. And yet, many times when I’m helping people in their search, I hear the horror stories of crappy management, bad bosses, corrupt employers, and unsafe workplaces as for why people are seeking to get the heck out. I’ve experienced it myself.

Blog job search Job Search Advice resume resume writing Uncategorized

10 Years of Change

Ten years ago I launched 1st Rate Resumes when the Internet was just taking flight. Because of the Internet, the job search has changed drastically. Here’s a look back.

In 2001, paper resumes were still being faxed to employers and few companies were accepting online applications. At that time the one page resume was becoming less popular, although it was still OK to use a functional resume early in the new decade. Text resumes for on-line applications were just being introduced, along with the advent of the “key word search” used in applicant tracking systems.

When I started my business I had to stock resume paper and deliver documents and customer folders. Now I email everything since paper resumes are going the way of the 8-track tape.

Midway through the decade, online portfolios and web resumes were beginning to surface, and I wondered if they would be a passing trend or replace the traditional resume. Functional resumes have since lost edge. HR managers and recruiters have expressed a strong dislike for this style.

Now as we enter 2011, we have LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to help connect jobseekers with employers.

The classified section of my local newspaper has dwindled to two columns on weekdays, and 4 pages total on Sundays. In early 2001, it was at least 10 pages.

I remember filling out my first online application for KPBS Radio during the summer of 2002. It took me 8 hours to navigate that beast. Now I can complete an online application in less than 45 minutes.

What a difference a decade makes.

Blog Freelancing hiring job search Networking Uncategorized

What is a Brand Ambassador?

If you’re between jobs or looking to pick up some extra cash, consider signing up to be a “Brand Ambassador” or Field Marketing Representative. These are the folks you see at fairs and major events, or even inside a big box store demonstrating products. Over the past decade I worked several events while I was building my resume business. Some of the jobs I completed included two Walgreen’s Health Fairs, an air show, and about 150 demos at Sam’s Club and Costco.

There are numerous field marketing companies out there. Most advertise on Craiglist under gigs until they find a stable of talent in each area for their database. They assign events to those who are most dependable and execute every detail with professionalism.

You can sign up with several companies. Usually these agencies are looking for attractive models who are friendly, approachable, and able to speak to strangers. You’ll need a headshot and resume. The headshot needs to be only you and somewhat professional looking. When the company has an event to fill they go through their database and offer it up. Many times they fill it to the first person who responds, so it’s important that you act fast or you can lose out. The pay can be anywhere from $11/hour to $20/hour depending on the complexity, how hard it is to fill, and what’s expected.

During the event you’ll be expected to engage with shoppers, offer them a sample, and play up a product’s benefits. Some customers are eager to talk to you. Others will brush you off and keep walking. They’re there to shop, not chit chat. Most of the customers and management are generally polite. Although from time to time you do get rude comments about the company or product your promoting.

One thing to note about these events is that you’re expected to put in additional time that you’re not paid for. For example, I’ve seen one company tell me to arrive 15 minutes early to set up, but it’s not in the contract so they don’t pay you for that. The other is the paperwork you need to fill out when you get home from the event. Many times you need to input information into a computer or telephone survey prompt system. Then you’re expected to fax in all your paper work within 48 hours of the event. The event can be a weekend of pouring wine samples, handing out coupons for cat food, or hawking makeup at Coscto. It’s always a different campaign which makes it fun.

Now for the underbelly of it all. Outdoor events can be hot, windy, wet, or really nice. I remember being at two different outdoor events where I was assigned the position next to the generator. I got to smell fumes all day!  Plus you’re on your feet all day and you won’t sit down, so wear really good shoes and try and stand on a cushioned mat.  Otherwise you might have sore legs at the end of the day.

Some companies will issue you a prepaid debit card and make you stand in line at a retail store’s register. They expect you to make a small purchase to “sign in” when you arrive since most of these jobs are unsupervised. Signing in with a debit card to make a purchase is such a hassle, especially when there’s a long line of people ahead of you.

As with any industry, some of these agencies are better than others. Here are some of my favorites: Encore Nationwide and Pierce Promotions. These two are the leaders when it comes to recruiting, execution, and payment. Encore Nationwide faithfully paid me every two weeks for a 9-month gig at Costco and they made the whole field marketing experience a pleasure. There are a lot of smaller agencies out there that are slow with payment, make huge mistakes in execution, or make their whole  process a major pain. However, you’ll soon learn which companies are your favorites, and which to avoid. You can also google the company name with the words “complaints” and see what comes up.

These jobs can be sometimes steady and other times sporadic. With my Costco gig, I handed out makeup samples every weekend to get members familiar with the new line of cosmetics available only through Costco. That was a great job because I didn’t have to learn a new product every week and I became really knowledgeable, developed good reports for the company, and documented my own sales progress!

The upside to being a Brand Ambassador is that you can meet a lot of really neat people, score some good samples, and get into events free, including a look behind the scenes. It’s also pays a decent hourly wage. But don’t expect it to be easy money. You will work your butt off.

Put your best foot forward by producing a quality head shot. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer (although I have, and it helped) but you do need to be the only one in the photo. That means no friends, pets, or you holding a beer. Fill out the application completely and accurately.  Include a decent resume to show off your willingness to work holidays, weekends, and nights.  Make yourself to appear as youthful and energetic as possible. Send back all required paperwork such as an I-9 and 1099 back quickly.

Finally, when you complete your assignments, send along a note thanking the booker for the business. Not many people do that. That alone helped me stay steadily employed in this niche for nearly a decade.

Blog Job job search Job Search Advice resume writing Uncategorized Work

Your Occupation’s Special Needs

Sometimes we get so close to our own occupation that we forget some of those daily tasks that get overlooked on a resume that can make us stand out.

For example: today a broadcast engineer friend of mine sent me a 7-minute video on how to climb an antenna tower. I watched this video and the first thing I thought of for a tower climber’s resume was to be sure and add: “agile climber, unafraid of heights, with an accident-free record.” But how many broadcast engineers would think to add that to a resume? Most won’t. They say it’s part of the job. But you never know why the last guy left his job. Maybe s/he fell?

Employers hate accidents and litigation. Therefore think about your occupation for a moment. What are some of the things you do that most people aren’t even aware of, and what makes you good at it. What do you like about it? For tower climbers, it’s the freedom, the love of the outdoors, and of course the view from the top that most of us never get to experience. What make them good at their job? They have to be unafraid of heights, mechanically adept, and willing to work on call, weekends, holidays, and nights.

I’m happy to keep my feet on the ground and live vicariously through the resumes I write. It also helps me point out the special needs required of different types of occupations.

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Is the Recession Really Over?

According to top economists, the recession was officially over a year ago.  Tell that to the scores of unemployed and their reaction might be, “yeah, that’s  because the Depression is now upon us.”

I’m no economist. In fact I’ll be the first to admit I got a big fat D in Economics back in college. But I do listen to what clients tell me. Just this morning, a woman who represents a furniture manufacturer to retailers in her territory told me that after recently calling on numerous furniture stores, she has given up. None are ordering new inventory, and one owner was in tears, fearing that after 30 successful years in business, she would have to close her doors. That’s not good news.

Further, a friend of mine who sold her house in June told me that her Realtor revealed that she was lucky to get her house sold during the stimulus tax credit because after it ended, business came to an abrupt halt. Houses are not selling as easily as they did over the past year.

Here’s the problem I see. If furniture stores are closing, and Real Estate Agents aren’t making sales, they will be out pounding the pavement looking for another job, outside their own industry. And if people aren’t working, they’re not spending, thus shuttering more businesses. Therefore, who is supposed to hire these career changers? There are fewer and fewer jobs being offered because businesses are barely hanging on.

Self-employment and contract work is becoming the new normal. A new stimulus plan is being proposed for small businesses. However, CEOs are less optimistic about the future and are expecting somewhat of a long and uneven recovery.

The best you can do to protect yourself is to keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date, and continue to pursue necessary education and certifications required of your industry. Everyday is your job interview, and networking shouldn’t just happen when you’re looking for a job.

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Bragging Rights – Client Testimonial

I wrote a resume earlier this month for a man about to lose his job the end of the month. He’s very accomplished and motivated and I was confident he’d do well in his job search in this crummy economy. Looks like he won’t be needing unemployment compensation. Today I got the following email:

Hello Susan,

I think I’m ready for that ASCII version.  Quick success story: After researching potential companies in my target market, I sent my shiny new resume to a company last Friday afternoon.  It was a blind send, which never works, right?  But I took a shot!  I received an eager email response of Monday morning, a phone interview Monday afternoon, a sit down interview with the owner on Tuesday, and they have stated they will send me a formal offer tomorrow. They loved my resume, and that gave a an opportunity to shine in the interview.  Because of the quick turnaround time, I am able to entertain two offers, and have my pick.
I’ve referred a friend, and when another friend asked about the cost I said “If it gets me hired even one week quicker than otherwise, it saved me money.”
You did a tremendous job.  Thank you, Susan!


No, thank you!

Career gaps in resume hiring job jumping job search Recruiters Uncategorized

Job Hoppers Need Not Apply

I was perusing CraigsList this morning and stumbled upon an ad for a new restaurant that is apparently coming to a town near me. The ad didn’t identify the company, but stated great benefits, distinctive menu, yada, yada, yada. What really caught my eye in the vacancy announcement was the following:

Candidate Criteria:
• Must be employed in the restaurant industry or recently unemployed (1-4) months out
No more than 2 jobs in 5 years, 3 in 9-10 years.

This really floored me, because anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry will tell you that these folks tend to move around a lot. Now the hospitality industry is getting picky with its candidates and demanding an impeccable resume with solid company loyalty and no gaps in employment. In other words, those with a history of short-time gigs need not apply.

Six months ago I attended the NRWA annual conference where there was an employer panel to answer our questions. One recruiter blatantly said, “we will not consider any candidates who did not stay in former positions a minimum of 3 years.”

Times are a changin’. I have to wonder how this economy will affect the resumes of today’s job seekers. Many are losing jobs as quickly as they find them through no fault of their own and that can be detrimental to a once perfect background.

The only thing I can suggest is keep networking, choose your next job WISELY, and chase your passion. As long as you’re doing something you love, it won’t matter if your job lasts a month, a year, or a decade. Passion shows and grows, and it’s something you either have or you don’t. You can’t learn it or earn it.

–Susan Geary, 1st Rate Resumes

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Job Search News From the Trenches

Last week, while sitting on the set of JobQuest at Blue Ridge PBS, I was placed right next to a headhunter as we both manned the phones, helping callers with their job search questions. The show’s anchor Julie Newman informed me she wanted to interview me on live television about the state of the job search. “What’s it like out there? And what are you hearing from your clients?” I was like a deer in the headlights trying to think of what I would tell her in a concise elevator speech of less than 30 seconds (Broadcasters hate it when you take too long to answer a question.)

Thankfully, the headhunter sitting next to me came to the rescue! He had told me only a few minutes prior that he published a vacancy announcement for an administrative assistant in the Sunday Roanoke Times and within 24 hours had 100 resumes. 100! I asked him how many of those resumes were good enough to pass along to his client. He told me ONE. That’s right — 1%.

The fact is it’s taken longer to find a job in today’s market than it did a few years ago. There are fewer positions available and more people applying for them. The U.S. government reports that for every opening, there is something like six unemployed people out there to fill them.

If candidates want to find work, it is available, but it’s up to them to compete effectively. That resume from 5 years ago just won’t cut it, just like the IRS won’t accept deductions and tax credits from rules that applied to an earlier year that may no longer be applicable. The point is, if you’re trying to save money during this tough economy the last place is with a do-it-yourself resume. In the long run, how much will it really cost if it takes you LONGER to find a job?

–Susan Geary, CPRW / 1st Rate Resumes

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The Art of Networking

Networking is more than meeting people, exchanging business cards, and working a room. It’s about establishing relationships. Unfortunately most folks don’t take networking seriously. We know who they are. They are the people you only hear from when they want something. When all is going well, they disappear. That’s NOT networking.

Networking is about helping others, rather than “what’s in it for me?” It’s not about using people, it’s about giving something of yourself.

If you’re not sure about how to network, start with the book, “One Phone Call Away, Secrets of a Master Networker” by Jeffrey W. Meshel. Jeffrey teaches how to overcome shyness, grow loyalties, and improve your reputation. Jeffrey’s best advice, “Dont change who you are, change the way you think.” And that’s good advice for all areas of your life.

Susan Geary / 1st Rate Resumes

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What’s Your Specialty?

As a professional resume writer I have the inside track on many job openings. Over the past 25 years I’ve had the good fortune to work in some really fun and interesting industries, including broadcasting, tourism, and marketing. Today, there are very few jobs that capture my interest enough to quit what I’m doing now, with the exception of two. And I’m convinced these 2 jobs won’t be advertised in the paper. I need to find the decision maker and state my case that I can drive revenue to their organization and then follow through with results. So what are these 2 coveted jobs of mine?

1. Radio Talk Show Host specializing in careers. There’s already a plethora of real estate shows, gardening experts, lawyers, computer gurus, etc yakking up the airwaves every weekend. It’s time someone jumped on board to blatantly tell the masses what mistakes they continue to make while looking for a job, or the nutty things they do to derail their career. I majored in broadcasting in college and have nearly two decades of experience on the air. Plus I’ve made my own share mistakes which I’m not afraid to admit.

2. Roller Skating Rink Marketing Consultant. Yeah, this is a weird one, I know, but I like to skate and it’s sad to see rinks around the country closing their doors due to lack of business. There’s a lot of things rink owners can do to bring in more business on a shoestring budget.

You’ll note these are not “run of the mill” jobs. One thing I’ve learned from my career as a professional career coach is that people with a specialized niche are far more employable than those without. In a good economy administrative assistants can easily find work. That is no longer the case. I’ve seen Recycling Plant Managers and Funeral Directors find jobs faster than Office Managers. That’s because there is less competition.

Do you have a niche that few people can fill? Don’t fear that “there are no jobs out there.” Specialize and Capitalize. Don’t wait for a vacancy announcement to fulfill your dream.

–Susan Geary / 1st Rate Resumes