Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Transitioning Military Can Maximize Their LinkedIn Profiles

by Susan P. Joyce

1. Determine the job(s) you want in the civilian job market.

If you don’t already know, start figuring out what you want to do and where you want to do it.

Focus on 2 or 3 job titles.

DO NOT KEEP YOUR "OPTIONS OPEN." Just like in combat or any other project you undertake, you must have a specific mission or target that you are aiming for, or you’ll end up with nothing. Keeping your options open is a recipe for a long job search with time wasted going off into unproductive dead ends.

2. Leverage your LinkedIn "Professional Headline."

Your LinkedIn "Professional Headline" is the one-sentence description of you that appears below your name on your Profile.
Your Professional Headline appears with your name and photo in everything you do in LinkedIn (make a comment, start a discussion, send an invitation to connect, etc.).
LinkedIn named it your "Professional Headline" – not your job title and not your current status (particularly if your current status is "unemployed")! So, think "HEADLINE!"

Yes, you may currently be "Platoon Sergeant at US Army" or "Junior Officer at US Navy" right now. But, while accurate, those are pretty useless Professional Headlines. No civilian will be able to translate those phrases into what job you might want, even a civilian who is a veteran.

So, make it very clear to them, like this, for example -
Old: Platoon Sergeant at US Army
New: Army Sergeant, operational manager of 40, seeking a position as facilities supervisor for a large healthcare complex.
Old: Junior Officer at US Navy
New: Navy Lieutenant, manager of 40 logistics workers, seeking a position as supply chain management consultant.
Or, [military title], seeking a position as [whatever you want to do next].

LinkedIn gives you 120 characters, spaces, and punctuation. Use as many of them as possible. Don't be modest, and don't expect civilians to understand the difference between a platoon and a battalion or a squad and a squadron.

3. Focus your Profile on your future, not your past!

Job-Hunt’s Resume Expert Susan Ireland tells job seekers that their resumes are about their future, not their past, and she recommends that you take the same approach with your LinkedIn Profile. Focus on what you want to do next!
You don’t need to describe everything you did in the service. Your LinkedIn Profile is not a catalog of your work history. It’s a marketing flyer for your job search!

If you’re like that Army sergeant who wants to be a facilities supervisor at a large health care facility, go through your resume and pick out every facilities-management-related responsibility, experience, skill, accomplishment, task, and training class completed successfully. Then, put as many of those in your LinkedIn Profile as you can fit.
The Navy lieutenant would look at his or her background and pick out the things (responsibility, experience, skill, etc. as with the sergeant) that would show the potential target employers that the lieutenant has the experience and skills (etc.) needed by a supply chain consultant. Then, that relevant information would be included in the lieutenant’s LinkedIn Profile.

4. Don’t worry a lot about your rank, unless you’ve achieved a very high rank or achieved high rank at a very young age.

In general (pun intended), most civilians don’t understand military rank structures. "Generals" and admirals" are recognizable as very senior, but everyone else is just kind of a fog (have you noticed that the media thinks everyone who carries a rifle is a "soldier"?).

I’ve recently seen recommendations to leave your rank completely off your resume and, I assume, your LinkedIn Profile as well. Given the lack of understanding it may not be a bad idea, but I don’t recommend completely eliminating your rank from either your LinkedIn Profile or your resume.

Because your resume may be viewed by a veteran or someone who does understand military ranks, people who understand the rank structure will wonder why it is missing. They may wonder what you are hiding by not including any reference.
So, do a brief reference, e.g. "Honorable Discharge as an E-5" (or whatever you were). Be sure to include the Honorable Discharge, assuming that’s what you received. If you did not receive an Honorable Discharge, I would just say – "Rank at discharge: E-5" (or whatever) or "Rank at separation: E-5" (as appropriate).

Stick with your classification code as E-# or O-# (for the people who know/care) without the official title or classification. Since about 90% of the civilian world doesn’t know a corporal from a colonel, describing yourself as a "staff sergeant," "first class petty officer," or even a generic term like "junior officer" will make no sense to them. And that confusion may hurt your job search - the titles "junior officer" and "petty officer" sound like very light-weight jobs to civilians. Don’t take the risk of being underestimated.

Bottom Line

LinkedIn is where you need to be for your civilian job search, and I’m very happy to see more and more transitioning military members appearing in my LinkedIn Job-Hunt Help Group. Just remember to (1.) focus on your future and (2.) highlight your military experience as it relates to your target civilian job in language that civilians can grasp.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

10 Pieces of Lame Job-Search Advice

10 Pieces of Lame Job-Search Advice

By Alison Green

Not every piece of job search advice you hear is worth following. In fact, some of it is downright bad and will hurt your chances. Here are 10 pieces of advice that you should ignore every time:

1. Collect letters of recommendation from previous managers before you start your job hunt.

Reality: You can skip this step entirely. Employers know that those letters don't count for much since no one puts critical information in them. Plus, when hiring managers reach the reference-checking stage of the hiring process, they want to talk to your references—on the phone, where they can ask questions and probe for more information. Managers want to hear your references' tone of voice, hear where they hesitate before answering, and hear what they say when asked about potential problem areas.

2. You need to track down the hiring manager's name so that you can address your cover letter to him or her.

Reality: This is another unnecessary step. If the hiring manager's name is easily available, go ahead and use it. But you don't need to call to track it down or do other sleuthing. Hiring managers rarely think, "Wow, this person took the trouble to call and find out my name. What amazing initiative!" It just doesn't matter that much, so instead put that time into writing a great cover letter. Speaking of which…

3. Employers don't really read cover letters.

Reality: A well-written cover letter with personality can get you an interview when your resume alone wouldn't have. Sure, not every hiring manager cares about cover letters, but many do and you have no way of knowing which type you're dealing with. With so many stories of cover letters opening doors that otherwise would have stayed shut, it would be foolish to pass up this incredibly effective way of standing out.

4. Don't leave the ball in the employer's court—say you'll call to schedule an interview.

Reality: Too many job seekers end their cover letters with a statement like, "I'll call in a week to schedule an interview." This is pushy and overly aggressive. Job seekers don't get to decide to schedule an interview; employers do. And employers would spend all day fielding calls if the hundreds of applicants who apply for any given position were to call to follow up. It might be hard to accept, but once you apply, the ball is in the employer's court.

5. Stop by the business you want to work for and apply in person.

Reality: This isn't good salesmanship; it's annoying. Most companies include specific instructions about how they want you to apply, and unless "in person" is included, they don't want you stopping by. Plus, many companies only accept resumes electronically because they use electronic screening systems. (Retail and food service are exceptions to this; in-person applications tend to be more common in those industries.)

6. Send out as many applications as possible every day.

Reality: It doesn't matter how many resumes you send out if they're not tailored to the jobs for which you're applying. A smaller number of well-done applications customized to the job will get you better results.

7. It's OK to inflate your current salary.

Reality: When a prospective employer asks what you're making currently, you might be tempted to inflate the number to get a better offer from them. But if the employer finds out later that you lied, your job offer can be yanked—even after you've already started the job. And many companies ask candidates for W2s or other documentation of the salary they reported.

8. Always send a handwritten thank-you note.

Reality: You should always send a thank you after a job interview, but it's perfectly fine to send it through email. In fact, email can often be better than postal mail, because if an employer is moving quickly, a letter sent through the mail may arrive after a decision has already been made.

9. If you're called for a phone screen, never ask to talk later.

Reality: If an employer calls out of the blue for a phone screen, you might be running out the door for an appointment, in the grocery store, or dealing with a child. It's perfectly fine to explain that you're not able to talk at the moment and ask to schedule a time to talk later; you're not obligated to take the call on the spot.

10. Find a gimmick to make your application stand out.

Reality: Don't listen to people who recommend that you use a fancy resume design, have your resume delivered by overnight mail, or send it along with a box of cookies. The way to stand out in a job search is to be a highly qualified candidate, have a resume that shows a track record of achievement, to write a great cover letter, and be responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic during the hiring process. It might be boring, but it's effective.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.