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A Labor Day Perspective: Effort and Opportunity

In the spirit of Labor Day – I have been thinking a lot about jobs and the people who do them.  With the overwhelming media coverage on the subject — whether you are a senior employee or recent college graduate – it’s hard not to feel a bit obsessed with the employment issue.  Who has a job and who doesn’t?  Will I keep my job or become another pink slip?  If I lose my job – is it like a game of musical chairs… Where someone is left standing when the music stops?

It’s stressful and sometimes seems void of hope.

With this anxious and gloomy backdrop — I recently had the pleasure of talking with a friend who was in the final stages of hiring for a newly created position.  Yes, that’s correct…imagine a game of musical chairs where there was an extra seat when the music stops!  While it was certainly a nice change of pace on the “jobs” landscape – the hiring process highlighted a different issue.  Even in a sea of qualified and experienced candidates – many of the resumes, cover letters (when they even remembered to add one) and candidates seemed to fall flat.  In some cases it didn’t even seem obvious that the person wanted the job at all!

While I don’t profess to be an expert in employment matters – I certainly have had my share of experience in developing job descriptions, recruiting, hiring, managing — and even firing — staff. Over the years I have collected my own little list of “Rules” that I thought might be useful for those who find themselves at any stage of the employment process.

• Do your homework.  In the information age – it is not difficult to learn about the organization/company and the people who work there.  This allows you to tailor your communications to suit the environment and personality of the team.

• Write a personalized cover letter.  Most people who are at the level of hiring employees know the difference between a form letter you send to 100 other potential employers – and one that addresses them by name and focuses on their hiring needs.  A simple phone call the receptionist can provide you with a department head’s name.  I firmly believe this is the thing that can instantly put you in the “for your consideration pile.”  Candidates put lots of time and effort into the resume – but never focus on wrapping.  Think of it like a bookstore – isn’t it the often a creative cover that draws you in and gets you to pick up a book?

• Be sure to give them everything they ask for.  Go back and look over the job description – it usually has buzzwords and indicators of what you should highlight in your cover letter and interview.  If it’s not clear – call and ask for additional details.  They’ll appreciate your willingness to provide them with the best possible information – making their job easier.

• While you should certainly respect the resume submission protocol outlined by the potential employer – it is always a good idea to follow up.  A simple phone call to confirm they received your materials gives you the opportunity to say “I really look forward to talking with you in person about the position.”  Also — pay attention to the submission deadline and follow up again after the closing date.  It puts your name on the top of the person’s mind and shows initiative and personality.

• Once you are granted a personal interview – ask for a homework assignment.  This way you have time to prepare questions and answers that will showcase your best talents and skills – allowing your personality to shine through.

• Finally, do not apply for a job you are really not interested in pursuing.  Your lack of interest will show through and can be mistaken for lack of ability.  You never know — that person you are communicating with might be on a board or advisory committee for the job you really do want.

So, as we enter this Labor Day holiday – let’s take the time to appreciate the amazing efforts of those around us and remember….with effort comes opportunity and with perseverance comes success.

By Stephanie Koehler
[email protected]

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