Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Want to get hired? Think like a publicist

Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder

Being a publicist is hard work, but public relations pros may have all the right answers when it comes to landing a job or advancing up the corporate ladder. In "Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded," publicists Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper share their advice on how to use classic, well-tested PR techniques to get ahead.

Want to get a job or build your brand with the media savvy of a publicist? Here's what to do:

When online, keep it professional

You don't need to keep up with all the social networks, but make sure to set your best foot forward when it comes to Facebook friends, Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections. "You may think that tweeting 'My job sucks' or 'I'm so hung over today' is innocent, but if your boss or a potential employer reads that, it could reflect poorly on you," says Jessica Kleiman, co-author and vice president of public relations at Hearst Magazines. "In PR, we like to consider everything 'on the record' because you never know who's sitting next to you when you're complaining on the train or who's reading your online profile."

Craft a message

With little time to pitch a service or product to reporters, it's important for publicists to be concise with what they want to say. "The first thing we do when we get a new client or project is to map out our key messages," says co-author Meryl Weinsaft Cooper and managing director at DeVries Public Relations. "Think about the three things you want people to know about you and then consider how you plan to communicate that in your resume and, ultimately, in a job interview." With so many job applicants, being able to weave a concise message to capture a recruiter's or hiring manager's attention is key.

Do your research

"Never go into a job interview without having researched the company," Kleiman says. "We would never pitch a reporter without having looked up [the reporter's] last few stories or knowing what kinds of topics the outlet covers." To prep for the interview, talk to current employees at the company, read industry blogs and make sure you understand what this company and position is really about. The more you know about a particular company and job opening the easier it will be to tailor your experience and explain why you're really a fit.

Don't be afraid of rejection

Even when approaching a dream company, don't be paralyzed by the thought of rejection, say the book's authors. Knowing how to deal with frequent rejection is part of the process as a publicist and is an especially relevant skill in times of high unemployment. At times, publicists send out a 100 inquiries to get just one or two responses, the authors point out.

Forget instant gratification

One of the skills most publicists learn right off the bat is that nothing pays off instantly. Instead take time to really craft and slowly build relationships. Many publicists need to constantly call their connections to get a positive response and following-up is often a large part of the job. Use the same tactics to get ahead in your job search. Instead of sending a cover letter and forgetting about that specific hiring manager or recruiter, be persistent and continue to follow-up without outright nagging. Building long-term relationships means they'll think of you when an opportunity arises.

Make it constant

Being a publicist is a 24-7 job, and like a job search, requires constant upkeep. Just like publicists need to keep tabs on how their specific product, person or service is doing -- job seekers should keep up with new opportunities, add to their experience and understand the changes in their industry. "While many celebrities and politicians have teams of PR experts working with them to build and manage their images, anyone can use the same skills to promote their talents and accomplishments in the workplace," Kleiman says.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Degrees That Get You Noticed

Find out which college degrees really stand out to HR.
By Chris Kyle

Struggling to get noticed by employers?

Want to separate yourself from the pack?

Make sure you earn the right degree.

"Right now employers are focused on finding people who can hit the ground running," says Cheryl Jacobs of MCG Partners, a career search and management firm. "To get hired, you need to be able to demonstrate some kind of specialized knowledge."

The right college degree can confirm that you have the expertise that employers want, particularly for those new to the workforce or looking to transition careers, says Jacobs.

If you are contemplating what to study or thinking about going back to school for more career training, here are five degrees that HR experts say can help elevate your resume to the top of the pile.

#1 - Accounting Degree
Average Starting Salary: $46,400
Average Mid-Career Salary: $77,500

According to our HR experts, accounting graduates are in serious demand as companies look to abide by more stringent accounting rules and regulations coming out of Washington, D.C. In fact, accounting is one of the first majors that recruiters mentioned when we asked what degrees are getting noticed in today's tough job market.

Right now the market is stronger for accountants than most other professions, according to Brett Good, senior district president of global staffing firm Robert Half. "We're finding a lot of opportunities for entry-level tax accountants that typically pay between $40-49K," Good said.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Auditors: $67,430
Budget Analysts: $69,240
Financial Analysts: $85,240
Actuaries: $97,450

HR Tip: "Learn how to use QuickBooks and include it on your resume," said Bob Kelleher, CEO of the Employee Engagement Group, "especially if you're thinking of working as an accountant for a small business, which is where most of the jobs are right now."

#2 - Health Care Administration Degree
Average Starting Salary: $37,700
Average Mid-Career Salary: $60,800

An increasingly specialized health care industry demands workers with a very specific skill set. Majoring in health care administration or studying to become a medical technician are just two of many great options in this massive industry.

"It's hard for communications and business majors to break into the health care field," said Jacobs. "Having a health care or nursing degree gives you a real advantage," she said.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Medical Assistants: $29,450
Surgical Technologists: $40,710
Registered Nurses: $66,530
Medical Managers: $90,970

HR Tip: According to Kelleher, enrolling in a two-year associate's degree program can be great preparation for becoming a medical technician or radiologist, two jobs that are showing real growth right now.

#3 - Information Technology (IT) Degree
Average Starting Salary: $49,600
Average Mid-Career Salary: $79,300

In today's cost-cutting times, companies are turning to technology to find ways to operate more efficiently. As a result, new IT grads possess the kinds of skills that companies need right now.

"In a booming economy, a sharp kid with a liberal arts degree would find a job easily, but not today," said Kelleher. "In this job market, specific in-demand degrees like IT give you a far better chance of getting hired."

Kelleher singled out information systems and web design applications as two of the hotter IT degrees. "It's also a big help to master applications like WordPress," he says. "The more you learn, the more marketable you become."

Related Careers and Salaries:
Network and Computer Systems Administrators: $70,930
Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts: $76,560
Computer Software Engineers, Applications: $90,170
Computer and Information Scientists: $105,370

HR Tip: Get certified. According to Good, "Professionals with Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certifications are in-demand."

#4 - Communications Degree
Average Starting Salary: $38,200
Average Mid-Career Salary: $72,200

In tough economic times like these, marketing/communications majors will find themselves competing against English and other liberal arts majors for many of the same jobs. The fact that they have a more specialized, career-focused education can be a plus, says HR expert Kelleher.

"The people who succeed in business all have strong communications skills," says Kelleher. Knowing how to get a company's message or product out the door will always be a valuable skill, in good economic times or bad, he says.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Public Relations Specialists: $59,370
Market Research Analysts: $67,500
Advertising and Promotions Managers: $97,670
Marketing Managers: $120,070

HR Tip: "Recent graduates who are able to show how their skills have helped solve business problems, whether as part of a school project or internship, and contributed to a successful campaign will most impress hiring managers," Good said, "particularly if the examples are relevant to the company they are interviewing with."

#5 - Criminal Justice Degree
Average Starting Salary: $35,600
Average Mid-Career Salary: $58,000

Criminal justice majors study law enforcement techniques and develop critical problem-solving skills at a time when their services are in demand, whether it's as a criminologist, homeland security agent, or police officer.

According to a 2010 post-recession poll by the Society for Human Resource Management, 76 percent of federal government HR managers say they are currently hiring. As an industry, that places the feds second only to health care in hiring. Criminal justice grads are well-positioned for many government jobs, whether it's as a customs agent, probation officer, or federal investigator.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Correctional Officers and Jailers: $42,610
Firefighters: $47,270
Police Officers: $55,180
Detectives and Criminal Investigators: $65,860

HR Tip: Showcase any military experience you may have. An interest in fitness can also help demonstrate your drive. Sign up for a race or hike a mountain - and don't be afraid to brag about it!

*All college degree salary information comes from PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report that details average earnings for graduates with a bachelor's and no higher, while all career salary data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and indicates mean annual wages as of May 2009.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Your nonverbal communication can wreck your interview

Selena Dehne, JIST Publishing

Giving a limp handshake, letting your eyes wander and fidgeting are just a few of the subtle blunders that can botch your success in a job interview. Although you may have been unaware you were doing these things, interviewers who pick up on negative nonverbal communication are likely to doubt your fit for the job.

Nonverbal communication can be judged just as much, and sometimes even more harshly, than the responses you give to questions you're asked during interviews. It can even be the single factor that helps hiring managers decide between you and another candidate when you're both equally qualified for the job. That's why it's so important to be mindful about your posture, facial expression and other behaviors.

"The most important idea is to project confidence and professionalism," says Heather Krasna, author of "Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service."

"If you find yourself becoming very nervous about interviewing, realize that this is normal. Practice interviewing in front of a mirror, on video or with a friend or career coach until you feel a bit more comfortable," she suggests.

In her book, Krasna offers the following tips for ensuring positive, appropriate and polite nonverbal communication:

A firm handshake is considered a sign of confidence. Take the other person's hand in your right hand (don't use both hands), so that the space between your thumb and first finger touches theirs. Give a firm, but not crushing squeeze, and shake the person's hand up and down slightly, once. If you have sweaty hands, be sure to dry them before your interview.

Posture and physical distance:
When sitting in a chair, sit up straight or lean forward slightly (don't slouch). If you will be crossing your legs, do it so that one knee is stacked on top of the other or cross your ankles. (Do not cross your legs so that one foot is on top of your other knee.) Alternatively, keep both feet on the floor. Do not stretch your legs out in front of you or sit with your legs spread far apart -- it looks too casual. When standing near someone, about three feet of distance is standard in most parts of the United States. Standing closer than this can be quite uncomfortable for others.

Arms and hands:
You can "talk with your hands" to some extent, but do not do so to the point of distracting your interviewer. Sitting with your arms crossed in front of you can look defensive. Instead, try to have a more open posture. Don't fidget, play with your hair or pen, or bite your nails!

Eye contact:
Look in the eyes of the person interviewing you. Looking down or away frequently gives a message of not being confident or being confused. Rolling your eyes up is considered a sign of disrespect. Don't stare intensely at the interviewer; just look him or her in the eye as much as possible.

Facial expression:
Smiling is an important way of showing that you are a friendly individual and that you are enthusiastic about the position. Smile at the beginning and the end of the interview at a minimum. This can't be emphasized enough -- I know several people for whom lack of smiling was a major barrier to employment.

You can also take note of the posture and expressions of your interviewer, and adopt some of his or her tone. Be careful, though -- even if an interviewer is quite friendly and casual, that does not mean you should be too casual. It is still a professional job interview.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

13 Ways to Sabotage Your Job Search

by Maria Hanson, LiveCareer

Looking for a new job but having no luck? You may be inadvertently sabotaging your efforts by making easy-to-avoid errors.

"It still surprises me that in most cases, people are their own worst enemies when it comes to getting a new job," says Tom Parr, of executive search firm Holland & Associates.

Check out these top ways career experts say job seekers sabotage their efforts. Avoid them, and you'll be on your way to a more successful job search.

"Without a good system, you have no way to know if you're doing the right things, no way to find and stop the things you're doing wrong," says career blogger and coach Steven Savage. "People should track their vital numbers--resumes sent out, contacts made, interviews gotten--so they can improve those numbers."

"Some people spend too much time thinking about what to say in their cover letter or researching the company, and miss the window for applying," says executive coach Kathi Elster.

Trying to match all of a job ad's requirements
"When employers draft ads for jobs, they have the ideal candidate in mind. The ideal candidate rarely exists," says career counselor Kathleen Brady. "Unless something is listed as 'required,' if you're lacking two or three qualifications, just apply anyway."

Not quantifying accomplishments
"Using numbers to show things like how much revenue you brought in, the costs you avoided, or the percent increase in efficiency you were responsible for, tell a hiring manager a lot more about your capabilities than words can," says J.T. Kirk, the author of "Confessions of a Hiring Manager."

Use a resume builder for help quantifying your achievements. Professionally written resume samples and examples will help you show the results of your work.

"Inactivity and procrastination breed hopelessness. It's essential to stay active in your job search, even when you don't feel like it," says career counselor Joanne Meehl. She says too many job-seekers say they're looking, when all they're doing is watching TV or mowing the lawn while merely thinking about finding a job.

Failing to maintain relationships
"The world is all about connections," says Cynthia Kazalia, a recruiter for New Directions Career Center. "In addition to networking, try to maintain relations with former supervisors and coworkers. You never know when you might need one another in a job search."

Not following directions
"Many people sabotage themselves at step one, and will never move on from there," says Naomi Moneypenny, vice president of research and technology at ManyWorlds. "If you can't follow simple directions in a job posting, you could be screened out immediately."

Ensure that your resume won't be screened out, with a free resume test.

"Oftentimes, job candidates disregard background and reference checks or educational verification for degree completion, or exaggerate or flat-out lie about their credentials," says Lizandra Vega, author of "The Image of Success." Stick with the truth, because chances are you will be caught.

Botching the cover-letter salutation
"Writing 'Dear Sir or Madam' is a clear and quick path to rejection, when you could easily find the name of the hiring manager. Even worse is 'Dear Sirs.' In the past two years I've had to respond to at least a dozen candidates by telling them they'd just 'Dear Sir-ed' their way out of a job," says Lauren Milligan, a career coach with ResuMAYDAY. She advises that if you can't find the name of the hiring manager online, use a professional salutation like "Dear Hiring Committee."

Being too self-centered
"A cover letter needs to show exactly how your values and experience mesh with what the company needs," says Art Fox, who teaches business writing at DePaul University. "Writing about your accomplishments is not enough."

"I can't believe how careless people can be," says Michael Hayes, of Momentum Specialized Staffing, who recently got a cover letter stating, "Hello, I just moved from Illinosi to the Phoenix area and would lovbe to get started working...." Lorne Epstein, creator of the Facebook application InSide Job, joins his disbelief, having just fielded a note stating, "I hope that this does not reach you you redundantly."

Forgetting the revealing power of the Internet
Of 400 applicants Kirk Sullivan, president of Cr8 Public Relations, received for a recent opening, he reports that "more than 300 sent resumes that did not match their LinkedIn resume.... At least 100 had Facebook profile photos of them half naked, in a 'love lock,' or holding a bottle of liquor. In addition, Google word searches found that the writing samples of more than 150 applicants were taken from other people's writing on the Internet."

Using a questionable email address
"The name mrluvuallnite@____ or sexylittlemommy@____ may get you a few nods on a dating site, but not with a potential employer," says tech writer and resume consultant Jae Henderson.

Follow these expert tips to stop sabotaging your job search, so you can land your dream job. To find your best career--and learn more about your career interests and unique work personality, take a free career test.