Job Talk: Our best advice of the past year
Once a year, we review our columns and pull out the comments we felt were the most worthy of repeating. With them goes our hope that 2013 becomes your best career year yet.
ON STAYING 20 YEARS IN ONE JOB BEING SEEN AS A NEGATIVE: You need a story that makes sense of your career path, what it was and will be. Stability is no longer revered; change is. We've reached the point where you need to have as good a reason for staying in one job as you do for job-hopping.
ON COMPETING FOR A JOB WITH AN "INSIDE" CANDIDATE: There's a good chance that the insider will be overconfident, resulting in a job interview that's casual and unimpressive. If you come in having talked to people in similar positions in other companies and you've used that knowledge to generate a list of ideas, you can be seen as bringing in a new energy that the insider can't match.
ON A COMPANY SURVEY INVITING CRITICISM OF YOUR MANAGER: If you must point out negatives, sit down at home and write up a detailed list. Get it all out. Then carefully fold the list, put it in the barbecue grill, light it on fire and use the flame to toast a marshmallow. Do that because this type of management review is NOT the time to complain. Your suggestions should be raised in a conversation with your boss, not in a written form that is going over and around your boss.
ON TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHY A RESUME ISN'T PRODUCING INTERVIEWS: For an experienced professional, the expectation is that you would get referred in by speaking with peers. So, it's not that your resume isn't working; it's that you haven't used it in a way that will succeed. The best resume is the one that you hand-deliver when you're sitting across the desk.
ON BEING A FINALIST BUT NOT GETTING THE JOB OFFER: Don't write off the company that turned you down. Stay in touch. They could be doing more hiring. If they see that you took the rejection well and you offered to check in regularly because you were impressed with them, they'll remember you. Many job seekers who didn't get the first job have ended up getting hired anyway, often within a month or two.
ON NOT HEARING ABOUT A PROMISED JOB OFFER: Don't wait. Don't wait to make follow-up calls, and don't wait for them to make up their minds. In fact, let's make that the guiding principle of job searchers: Don't wait. Even if a company tells you they love you and will be offering you the job, keep searching and interviewing. No job offer is certain. And meanwhile you might find something better. Do not wait.
ON BEING ASKED STANDARD QUESTIONS IN INTERVIEWS: Here's why HR pushes for standard questions: Without a list to stick to, many hiring managers end up spending the interview talking about themselves. Further, it's tough to compare candidates if each interview goes off in a different direction. Without consistent information across candidates, the hiring decision comes down to "gut feel," and most guts feel like hiring the person most like the person surrounding the gut, which is no way to optimize a department's resources.
ON THE IDEA OF TAKING A FEW MONTHS OFF BEFORE JOB-SEARCHING: Instead of taking a few months off to relax, organize a lively and adventuresome job search and create for yourself a pleasant break from your old work routine. Use the time to meet people, to reconnect with old colleagues and to add to professional knowledge. It can be an enlivening break from your old routine, but never forget that you're working at finding a great new job.
ON HAVING PREVIOUS EMPLOYERS WHO ARE OUT OF BUSINESS: Social media has made it much easier for us to find people. Seek out individuals to serve as references who can validate your work history. The most important thing is to not leave blank any part of the application. Applicant tracking systems are picky about things like that. And don't feel that your time spent tracking down former managers and colleagues is distracting from your job search — it's a marvelous way to network, and reconnecting with people is the most lively and enjoyable form of job searching.
ON WHY BEING "OVERQUALIFIED" IS A PROBLEM: One of our important themes is that a job offer is a logical connection; that is, the offer comes when your career and qualifications make hiring you a logical choice. Wise managers want to hire someone who is delighted to get the job — not to get ANY job, but the one particular job they have to offer. They assume that you would take a lower-level job only because you can't get anything else and that you are desperate. As you can imagine, that's NOT where they want to start a new employee relationship.
AND ONE LAST THING: Please get yourself a professional-sounding email address, one that doesn't include a word like "vixen." There are HR people who routinely reject anyone with a suggestive email address. You can keep your current email for personal use, but get another one, such as a G-mail account, with a conservative, professional address.
Visit O'Donnell and Dauten at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email. Or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.