MONEY job search

This is How You Write a Perfect Post-Interview Thank You

Thank You Note
Janice Richard—Getty Images

Make sure it includes these 4 things

In my recruiting experience, I came across very few thank you notes—which is a shame.

A thank you note is one more opportunity for candidates to stay front of mind with employers. Sending a timely thank you note shows professional courtesy and follow-through (one hiring manager I worked with knocked out candidates who didn’t send a thank you!). Plus, a well-crafted thank you note is a marketing tool that can promote your candidacy after memories of your interview have faded.

The best thank you notes go beyond simple gratitude. Here’s what a productive thank you note includes:

1. Personalization by Name and Quote

Don’t just write to HR or your immediate hiring contact.

If you have met several people, write an individual letter to each and every interviewer, and quote or paraphrase something specific they said. “Dear Alan, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I particularly enjoyed hearing about your upcoming project with Really Cool Builders…” If you have a panel interview and meet several people all at once, still write individual notes.

A personalized thank you deepens your relationship with that person and enables you to maintain that relationship separately long after the hiring process plays out.

2. Reiteration of Your Strengths

If a particular interview response seemed to resonate or there was something you discussed that elicited strong interest, build on these items in your thank you note.

You might share another related example or point to additional ideas along the theme of what you discussed. This reminds the interviewer(s) why they liked you. “My experience working with creative at Really Funky Advertising seemed to dovetail exactly with what you need for your designers. In another role at Really Inventive Copy, I supported the creative team….”

3. Shoring Up of Your Weaknesses

At the same time, if there was a hiccup in the interview—a question you stumbled on or a strength you failed to highlight—address this in the thank you.

Let’s say you were asked for an example of when you worked with finance and operations, as opposed to creative, and you didn’t think of anything or you gave one example but thought of a better one after the fact. Include the additional information in the thank you: “I’m excited that the opportunity gives me the chance to work with creative, finance and operations. At Really Stylish Retail, my role as the planning analyst meant I supported our finance team on forecasting, budgeting and trend analysis. This also involved the operations team as I reviewed inventory levels and logistics…”

4. A Suggestion to Meet Again

When you’re introducing new information, include enough so that they realize you have more to say, then invite yourself to a future meeting so they can hear more about it: “As you can see from these additional roles we didn’t get to discuss, I have more to share and would love to schedule another meeting to go into detail.…”

In addition to more of your own experience, you might add an idea you have or point to a relevant article and suggest you discuss these further.

One final note: People often ask me whether to send the note via mail or e-mail. I say the latter. E-mail ensures that the note will reach recipients in a timely manner.

If you’d prefer to mail a note—to use nice stationary or to include additional material—I’d still send a quick e-mail first, alluding to the upcoming material then follow up with the hard copy.

Snail mail can take a really long time to wind its way through large corporate entities. One time, a thank you card I’d sent to a mentor arrived months after I’d mailed it—and right before our next scheduled lunch!

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY job search

5 No-Fail Ways to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event

networking event people with nametags
Fuse—Getty Images

How you pitch yourself makes a difference in how you'll be remembered

If you’re looking for a new job, starting or growing your business, or even just looking to expand your network within your current company, you will need to meet new people.

The challenge is in finding a comfortable way to introduce yourself to the people who matter when you’re at a professional conference, association mixer, or a social event where other professionals will be. The key? To be brief, but also leave enough information that you pique the listener’s interest.

Here are 5 ways to introduce or “pitch” yourself:

Bond Over a Shared Experience

If you’re at a wedding, open with how you know the couple. If you’re at a conference, open with your affiliation to the organizer or your interest in the topic. If it’s a company mixer, mention your role, department or years at the company.

From this shared experience, you can share parts of your background that build from there. But you have already built rapport by starting with what you have in common. This is great for a career changer who may not want to associate himself with the role or company he currently has.

Tell a Client Story

Instead of just listing your title and company, talk about who you serve:

I’m an accountant with We Love Taxes. I prepare taxes for retail companies, mom and pop businesses, circus performers….

The more specific the better. You can also drill down to one specific story:

I am currently working with a retail store owner who came to us with a laundry bag full of receipts, invoices and other papers, and I created an electronic system that can now be accessed on her phone.

The client story is particularly useful if you’re a business owner and want to leave your listener with a clear idea of your value but without a sales pitch.

Give a Before and After

That anecdote of going from a laundry bag full of papers to a streamlined system is not just a client story, but also a before/after story. The before/after can be a client’s result but it can also be what you have brought to your role or department:

I manage logistics for We Love Mail. The company used to spend over $1 million on shipping costs, and my group figured out how to cut that cost in half.

A before/after structure is accessible because it’s visual, and the conversational structure prevents too much business jargon from creeping in. Creating a before/after pitch also forces you to identify and specify the value you bring.

Focus on your Expertise

This is the most traditional pitch in that you summarize the arc of your career—industry specialty, years’ experience, and/or role:

I’ve been in marketing most of my career—consumer products, luxury, and now retail—specializing in social media

This is a dependable way of introducing yourself, and if you keep it concise, you’ll share a rich amount of information. One drawback is that many people use this pitch, so you risk getting forgotten, especially at a crowded event like a conference where introductions stack up.

To be more memorable, that same marketer could have made the pitch more specific…

I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. I build a community for book lovers to discover our store online.

Or the marketer could have tried to incorporate the before/after as well:

I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. We had a pretty dormant Facebook page three years ago when I started so I put us on YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook and now we a third of our customers hear about us first online.

Get Personal

Most pitches rightly include professional history or accomplishments because people expect this.

But an introduction is really about the start of a relationship. The professional sharing could come after. You might try sharing something personal first—where you grew up, a cherished hobby, a side project you’re currently working on. If the personal nuggets engenders a genuine rapport and a chance to talk again later then it’s a good pitch to use.

You might combine it with the shared experience:

I’m a friend of the bride. We went to school together—elementary actually. I grew up in St. Louis and didn’t come to NYC till well after college…

Ideally, you create, then mix and match all of these pitches. You decide which to use based on the situation. You experiment, and use the ones that resonate the best. You continually add—new client stories, new before/ after results, new ways to summarize your career, new personal tidbits to share.

Make sure your networking pitch evolves as your career, skills and interests evolve.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY productivity

6 Ways to Maximize Productivity on a Snow Day

A woman gathers snow for a friendly snowball fight in Central Park.
Chris Hondros—Getty Images A woman gathers snow for a friendly snowball fight in Central Park.

Winter Storm Juno threatening your plans to make it into the office? These tips can help you get so much done that you'll even be able to sneak out for a snowball fight.

If you’re a resident of the Northeast, you’re probably going to be affected by the big snow storm that’s already begun hitting the area.

Your office may be closed. Your kids might be home from school.

How do you stay productive when you’re unexpectedly forced to work from home with the kids begging you to play with them? Use these strategies:

Postpone Powwows

The most pressing items are scheduled meetings that involve others. If you had a live meeting planned, notify attendees of the cancellation and work on rescheduling it.

Get Set Up in Advance

If you haven’t left the office yet, do a sweep of your desk, and bring home with you any paperwork you’ll need to continue to operate from home this afternoon or tomorrow. Particularly if you have important calls, make sure you have all of the material you need so that you aren’t the one holding up progress.

If you haven’t been set up to work remotely and don’t have access to your files, you may have to work with IT and/or your boss to gain access—this takes time so do this early.

Do Some Task Triage

Already at home? If you’re not used to working there, you may not have the best setup. You may not have all of the files you need; you may not have the best equipment; you may need to interact with colleagues who are not readily available.

Itemize what you had planned to do and categorize by what you can postpone for when you’re back in the office, what you still can do from home, and what you can do but might need some preparation (e.g., help from IT in downloading a file).

Knowing what you can do, and by when, enables you to focus on feasible activities and gives you a heads-up on how your days will unfold when you return to the office.

Eliminate Distractions

Your kids’ unbounded excitement over having a snow day can distract from calls that require quiet or deadlines that require focus.

You have a few options: Trade babysitting with a neighbor. Pay your older kid extra chore money for impromptu babysitting. Tap the electronic babysitter—extra TV or computer time—for when you need silence or uninterrupted blocks of concentration.

Take Advantages of the Perks

Even if you don’t have the best setup, you still might be more productive overall.

You’ll probably eat better, since you can fix a nutritious meal instead of rushing out for fast food. If meetings have been postponed, you now have blocks of time to catch up on another project. Even your break time can be productive, as you grab a snack with your kids or put in a load of laundry or do a quick home workout.

Start Planning for the Next Work-at-Home Emergency

If you find that you’re ill-equipped to work from home, work with IT when you return to the office to improve for next time. Plan for remote access of files, invest in a faster laptop or mobile device, and know which activities and projects are equally effective when done remotely.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY job search

10 Ways to Speed Up Your Job Search

building blocks with social media icons on each side
iStock

Want to land a new gig in 2015? Then you'd better launch a personal marketing campaign, career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine says.

The start of the new year is traditionally a good time for hiring.

Yes, this means that job seekers should refine their résumés. But your C.V. is just one of multiple ways job seekers should market themselves. I can think of 10 more off the bat.

I know what you’re thinking: 10 tools, in addition to a resume, sounds like a lot of work

However, many of these build on each other and support the answer to “Why should an employer hire you?” And that’s a question job seekers must answer confidently and convincingly.

Here are the 10 things you’ve got to work on to help propel your search:

1. Social Media Profile

More companies are using social media to find candidates. When you update your resume, update your online profiles as well.

2. Social Media Activity

Don’t just change the details on your profile. Update your status, post an interesting article related to your line of work, make a comment that showcases your professional expertise. If you are looking for a job that requires social media savvy, having a static profile—however, updated—will not be enough without regular and relevant activity.

3. Headshot

You don’t need a professional to take your photo, but you do need a professional-looking photo. A photo on your social profiles makes you seem more personable. Also, from a practical standpoint, a picture can help you with networking—some people won’t remember your name after having met you once or a while ago, but they might remember your face.

4. Cover Letter

A cover letter is not a rehash of your resume. It enables you to highlight your most relevant and compelling facts. It helps you smooth over a story that includes employment gaps and/or career changes. It is a chance for you to make the case for why your dream employer should hire you.

5. Cover Email

You can’t just copy and paste your cover letter into the text of an email. It will be too long and too formal. A cover email is like a cover letter in that it highlights the best, explains away any red flags and makes a compelling case—but it has to do this in a fraction of the space.

6. 20-second Pitch

When you meet someone, you need to introduce yourself. What you say is part of how you market yourself. Keep in mind that your new connection ideally can introduce you to others, including possible employers. So what you say needs to be memorable and repeatable.

7. 2-minute Pitch

You also need to be able to talk about yourself in more than a 20-second sound bite. You may book a networking meeting over coffee and have the chance to share more about your background. Aim for two minutes. This is enough time to give the arc of your career, as well as highlight key accomplishments.

8. Your Pitch for Someone Else to Use

Your friend offers to help and will forward your resume or make an introduction at an event. What do you want your friend to say? Using your cover email and 20-second pitch, be ready with a version in the third person that someone can use to introduce you.

9. Portfolio

Of course, a writer should have clips, and a designer should have samples. But a software developer can showcase programs, a marketer can share a campaign, a consultant can share a slide presentation that summarizes the business case developed. Every professional can showcase their work in some way. A visual, tangible example is so much more powerful than a wordy explanation.

10. Personal website

You can pull all of these items together—social profile, social updates, headshot, short introduction, portfolio, and resume—in a personal website branded with your name. You can list your URL on your business card and résumé to point employers to additional information. A recent survey of over 15,000 job seekers by branded.me and The .ME Registry showed only 4% had personal websites, which implies just having a personal website would be one point of differentiation.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY job search

5 Career Questions That Will Make You More Successful in 2015

Need to find a new job in the new year, or reignite your passion for the one you have? These questions from a career coach can help.

Here we are at the end of 2014. The transition from one year to the next is a great time to reflect on your career to date and what you need to focus on going forward. These 5 questions will help steer your reflections in an insightful and productive way that can lead to increased success and career satisfaction in the year ahead.

1. What was my biggest accomplishment?
Most job interviews include questions about your biggest accomplishment. You want to have something recent to say—ideally as recently as this year. What result did you achieve? What expertise did you gain? What area of the company did you improve? Remember not only those things you directly impacted but also how you contributed to a larger accomplishment, say for your department or an organization you support. Write down all of your wins, but select what you felt was the most significant and consider why it tops the list. This gives you a window into what you’re proud of, what you prioritize, what you’re passionate about.

2. Who was my biggest champion?
Collaboration and relationships are critical to a successful career. It’s important to recognize who is helpful and what makes them helpful so you can thank people. You also want to nurture these relationships. Don’t just focus on big or obvious gestures, like a job lead shared or a reference given. Remember the colleague who helps you out when you’re overwhelmed, the friend who is available after work to listen and encourage, the savvy one in your network who’s great for identifying that tricky piece of information or next action to take. Many of your supporters help you in an ongoing way. What makes someone your biggest champion for this year? This speaks to what you really needed and who really stepped up.

3. Whom did I help?
The strongest networks are built on give and take. What did you give this year? It might have been pitching in for someone else who is overwhelmed, offering encouragement, or sharing advice. As you reflect on all the ways you helped, you might see that your focus was limited to the office, or only outside of the office with volunteer commitments, and you may decide to change or blend your focus over the next year. For example, perhaps you concentrated exclusively on your team and you should reach out more to other areas of the company. Or you may find that all of your relationships revolve around people at one level—only junior or senior or peers—and you want to diversify. Or you may discover that you’ve lost touch with everyone except those in your current company, and you need to consciously reach out to former colleagues, classmates, and personal connections in the year ahead.

4. What did I leave undone?
We all start the year intending to complete a number of projects or reach specific goals. Which ones did you finish, and which are still outstanding? Which projects were attempted but not completed? Which goals dropped off your radar altogether? In the downtime that the holidays provide, you have the space to reprioritize and think about what needs to be completed, what can be discarded, and what might need to be refined for you to get excited again or for a project to become feasible. For example, a business idea you were fleshing out may no longer be relevant and can be set aside, but a skill you were trying to develop might just need extra support or dedicated time on your schedule for you to make progress. Review your unfinished business and make a conscious decision to continue or not.

5. What is coming up that most excites me?
If this question brings up a lot of different commitments, pull out your schedule and plan for when you will pay attention to each of them. On the other hand, if you have trouble thinking about anything that excites you, now is the time to flex your passion muscle. Reviewing your past year might provide insight into areas to focus on. Reading business stories and biographies can encourage ideas for problems to solve; maybe some are relevant to your company and can be worked into your day-to-day. It could be that the most exciting thing coming up is personal in nature, such as a milestone in your family or a hobby you’re taking up. It’s important to acknowledge this and give space in your schedule for this, as you plan your upcoming professional commitments.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with executives from American Express, Citigroup, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic, so she’s not your typical coach. Connect with Caroline on Google+.

MONEY job search

How Recruiters Are Using Social Media—and What It Means for You

man with glasses looking at social media
Chris Batson—Alamy

A recent survey confirms that most HR execs are looking at LinkedIn and Facebook. You should be, too, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

The job market is improving.

Online recruiting platform Jobvite recently surveyed more than 1,800 HR professionals across industries, and found that a whopping 69% of recruiters expect hiring to become more competitive in the next 12 months.

So if you have put off your job search, now is the time to jump in. Employers anticipating competition will be more attentive to candidates and more aggressive with offers. As a job seeker, you will have more leverage.

The catch is that you have to find the job postings first—and that, the survey found, will require you to be on social media.

Here are three key insights from Jobvite’s survey and the implications for job seekers:

The Insight: 73% of employers plan to increase their spending on social media recruiting and referrals ranked a close second in where employers would put their recruiting dollars.

What It Means For You: If employers are spending on social and referrals, then job seekers need to be networking both online and offline. Look at the time and attention you place on finding jobs. How much of it is spent updating your social profile, staying active with your status and comments, and networking offline in live meetings and informational interviews?

These should comprise the vast majority of your job-search time.

Employers did not cite job postings in the top five of where they will increase their budget so job seekers should not prioritize this avenue.

The Insight: 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn, followed by Facebook at 66%. But 79% have hired candidates found on LinkedIn v. 26% for Facebook.

What It Means For You: If you are overwhelmed at the thought of staying active on social, take comfort in this statistic that shows you can put the lion’s share of your attention on LinkedIn and capture the lion’s share of employers’ efforts.

Make sure your profile is complete: photo, headline, summary, skills, detailed job history, and any additional items to showcase your expertise (e.g., video, publications). Join Groups so you can stay abreast of trends and more easily network.

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

Update your status so you can stay connected with your entire network on a regular basis.

Finally, make sure your LinkedIn profile is connected to an email you check regularly. As a recruiter, I use LinkedIn frequently and hear back from too many candidates several weeks after my initial message with an apologetic, “I never check my LinkedIn….”

Job seekers, you can set your LinkedIn updates to forward to your email of choice so there is no excuse not to read your updates and messages!

The Insight: 93% of recruiters will review a candidate’s social profile before making a decision and 55% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on what they saw on social media.

What It Means For You: You absolutely need to stay on top of your digital footprint.

Google yourself to see what employers see. Set a Google Alert on your name so you check what is on the internet about you on a regular basis.

Additionally, staying active on social media—posting related to your industry or knowledge area on Twitter and keeping your profile active on LinkedIn—will help you populate the internet with positive information about you and help improve your brand.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY job search

How to Ace Your Next Phone Interview

Man on phone interview
Simone Becchetti—Getty Images

Make sure you're not eliminated before your candidacy has even begun. Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers four strategies to wow a hiring manager when you're not face to face.

Phone interviews are becoming an increasingly common first step in the hiring process.

For hiring managers, they’re a more expedient way to narrow the applicant pool.

When I was working as a recruiter, I would often ask for a brief call to discuss the résumé, and from that short interaction determine who I would invite for a longer, in-person interview. That way I didn’t waste valuable time on applicants I’d otherwise nix five minutes into an hour-long in-person interview

While a time-saver for people like me, the phoner is yet another hurdle for candidates to overcome on the road to getting a job. To pass the bar with flying colors, you’ll want to do the following:

1. Focus on the words you’ll use.

In a live interview, you have your presence, your hand gestures, your smile, and eye contact. And all those non-verbal cues can be used to establish credibility and develop rapport. Communication is 80% or more about these non-verbals.

But on a phone call, all of this is taken away; you have only 20% of your power. You are left with the words you choose, the pace at which you speak, the inflections you give, and the clarity of your articulation.

It is that much more important that you focus on these verbal communication skills as you prepare for the interview (see steps #2 and #3).

2. Do a practice run

Don’t just wing a phone interview. Practice in advance.

A great way to do this: Leave a voicemail message for yourself with an interview response—talk about yourself or explain why you’re interested in the job.

Then assess how you come across by phone.

Do you sound enthusiastic? Do you speak clearly? Do you have the right volume—not too loud, not too soft? Do you speak at a good pace? Are you concise?

3. Align yourself to the job description

No one gets hired on the strength of the phone interview so you’re not trying to close the deal right away. You’re simply trying to get to the next round, and establish that you are strong potential match for the job at hand.

Therefore, plan what you will say based on how it matches to this job.

When you give an overview of what you’re doing, highlight where your current skills and expertise overlap with the job requirements. When you talk about why you would consider leaving, mention things that this new job offers, thereby confirming your interest in this very job.

4. Remember that it’s a conversation.

In a live interview, you can see that you need to wrap up your answer and move on if the interviewer’s eyes are glazing over, he glances at his watch, or he leans forward to interrupt you.

In a phone interview, you won’t get any such clues.

So keep your answers concise, and leave space to ensure that your interviewer can get in a word and ask the next question. This ensures you’re covering everything the interviewer needs to move you to the next round.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY pay gap

3 Ways Women Can Make Sure They Get the Raises They Deserve

hand helping hand
DAJ—Getty Images/amana images

Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine weighs in on the controversial comments made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last week. Her take: They underscore the need for women to find sponsors and sponsor others.

I imagine that the savvy, self-starting executive women of Microsoft felt particularly deflated by CEO Satya Nadella’s recent remarks (later withdrawn) that women shouldn’t negotiate for more money. Here they are most likely doing all the prescribed “right” things:

  1. Entering a high-growth industry, such as tech
  2. Working for a brand-name firm, like Microsoft
  3. Proactively working on their negotiating skills

…and then BAM! Here comes Nadella essentially saying that they should just wait for the system to even out the gender pay gap. If the CEO isn’t going to support your efforts, why even bother?

Actually this is precisely why you should bother with all of the proactive hard work. Your effort and skills belong to you, and you can take them somewhere else if you should hit a brick wall.

Sure, Satya Nadella’s unfortunate admission shows that a CEO of a major corporation may thwart your efforts just as a mid-level manager or even a narrow-minded friend (in the guise of well-meaning advice) might. You may not get the support you expect. But if you keep doing the prescribed “right” things below, you will collect some supporters to your cause along the way—including more open-minded, equitable executive sponsors.

Create an amazing body of work

It still starts with getting results, establishing your expertise, and contributing to the bottom line. Don’t let your own work product suffer because there is someone at the top of your company who doesn’t care—others do care and are watching for promotion-worthy candidates. You want your name to surface.

But you cannot simply let your accomplishments stand for themselves. You need to advocate for your them, to ensure they are recognized. See my previous post on preparing for your next review for step-by-step instructions on making sure you get your due.

Build a strategic and supportive network

So Nadella is out of step, and there are probably other CEO’s who share his view. But there will be men and women—at every level, in every industry, in every functional area—who are supportive.

I once had a banker at a big-name firm encourage me to “follow my heart” and take an unexpected career turn, even if it meant turning down his firm’s offer. He was so supportive and generous and gave me courage when I needed it most—and this was a BANKER! If I managed to find a mentor with a heart of gold in that industry, there will certainly be supportive senior people in any industry.

Find them. Enroll their support.

Be a strategic and supportive of others

Be the anti-Nadella. Don’t just throw your hands up at the amorphous system; proactively help others along and do your part to change the game.

Pick the smart but shy person in your group and plan to call on that person in the meeting; let the person know what you will ask so they have a chance to prepare. Think of that colleague from another department who always helps you and write a commendation to her (or his) manager, cc’ing the person you’re writing about. Return to your alma mater for a networking event or career talk.

As you build your amazing career and advocate for yourself, reach back and better the system for others.

 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

MONEY Networking

How to Make Sure Recruiters Will Call You When Your Dream Job Opens Up

Golden phone
Chris Turner—Getty Images

It's always a good idea to take calls from headhunters—even if the job they're currently hiring for isn't the one you want, says Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

You’re happily employed and going about your workday when the phone rings. You pick it up to find a recruiter on the other end. “I’m hiring for XYZ job, and so-and-so gave me your name…”

You’re flattered, but it’s just not your thing. Still, don’t be so quick to dismiss the call.

As a former recruiter, I’ve had prospects shoo me off the phone like a telemarketer. Or they just never respond to an email, voicemail or online ping.

This is short-sighted.

Recruiter calls provide good market information, and being responsive encourages that recruiter to think of you for other opportunities.

Use the call to your advantage by doing the following:

Become the interviewer

Don’t just fall into the traditional role of you as the candidate and the recruiter as the interviewer.

You are in the driver’s seat because the person has called you. So take control of the call, and learn more about the recruiter (what industries or positions does the person specialize in?), their recruiting firm (how many positions a year do they fill? for what kinds of companies?), their client (is the company expanding in a major way? what is their organizational structure?), and the position (what are the responsibilities? what kind of person are they looking for?).

This gives you market information, regardless of whether or not this particular position suits you. If the recruiter shares salary information, even better!

Asking questions also allows you to get to know the recruiter, and decide whether he or she is someone worth including in your network.

Find a way to say “yes”

I don’t mean say “yes” to going on an interview for a job you’re definitely not interested in.

I mean say “yes” to something: If you’re not interested, recommend someone who might be. If the position isn’t the right level or functional area, let the recruiter know what would be the right role. If the opportunity sounds like a possible fit, but you hadn’t thought about looking outside, say “yes” to one more conversation.

You want to be seen as open-minded and helpful.

Maintain the relationship

Now that you have made this unexpected connection, continue the relationship with good follow-up.

If you promised the recruiter you’d think about this search, do so and call back with your ideas or your interest.

If you didn’t agree to a specific follow-up action, keep the recruiter’s information for your general networking efforts: Include the person on your holiday list; send along an update three months from now when you’re working on something new; make an introduction to a talented friend who is looking. (Just remember that referrals reflect back on you, so only recommend people you know are quality).

Turn the call into a wake-up call

When I recruited candidates who were not interested, I would always ask them what kind of position they would be interested in down the road. This way, I could keep them in mind for a relevant opportunity.

Would you know what to say if someone asked you about your interests and next steps? If you weren’t prepared for this recruiting call, prepare for the next one. Be ready to describe what you do, what expertise you offer, and what value you offer. Be ready to explain what companies, work environments, and roles would be of interest.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

 

MONEY

This is How Smart People Get Ahead at Work

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Les and Dave Jacobs—Getty Images

If you want to be seen as a superstar, you'll want to plan out your career activity 12 months in advance, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

The recent passage of Labor Day is a good reminder to think about your career. After a slower summer, it’s back-to-work season.

This is also the perfect time to plan out your career activity for the upcoming year.

Here is a month-by-month guide that can help make sure you shine at the office, and set you up for future raises, promotions and job changes:

September: Coordinate your calendars

With school and after-school activities back on, parents again have to worry about double booking. Even if you don’t have kids, the fall season is when many professional associations turn up the programming. Block out professional and personal commitments that you know of now so that you don’t overschedule.

October: Plan your end-of-year push

It’s the last quarter of the year. Check your year-end goals to see what the priorities are for these last three months. Also, check deadlines for submitting year-end reviews and/ or budget requests for next year.

November: Pick your benefits

At many companies, November is the month when employees need to elect their health coverage and other benefits options for the year. Don’t assume your current selections will just carry over—with rising costs, your company very likely has changed the choices. Benefits are a career perk, but they are also a career tool: Taking care of yourself means you have more to give on the job.

December: Reconnect with your contacts.

The holiday season means more professional and social get-togethers. Take advantage of this time to catch up with people you don’t regularly see, in a relaxed and festive environment. Even if you don’t talk about work (and you probably shouldn’t!) you rekindle the connection and open the door to schedule a later meeting where you can put work on the agenda.

January: Pick your career resolutions

As you select your New Year’s resolutions, think about some related to your career to include. Is this the year you increase your management responsibility? Is this the year you pick up a new skill? Is this the year you change industries? If you’re happily employed, look at your company’s goals for the year and plan out how you are going to orient your work toward these specific goals.

February: Take a cue from Valentine’s Day

No, I don’t mean start dating someone at work! I simply mean focus on bringing love—or enjoyment or passion—back into your work. Make a list of your favorite clients, colleagues, projects, and day-to-day responsibilities. How can you plan your day to include more interaction with these people or projects?

March: Get your financial house in order

Ideally, tax planning is a year-round event. But the typical working professional files only once in April. So start getting your paperwork together in early March and use this as a chance to review the rest of your finances. A solid financial foundation supports your career by giving you confidence (e.g., to ask for more management responsibility), allowing you to make investments in yourself (e.g., to pay for classes to pick up a new skill) and enabling you to take risks (e.g., to allow you a cushion as you change industries).

April: Spring clean your workspace

Don’t just spring clean your house. Organize your desk and your work files. Finally read (or discard) those company memos and newsletters. Renew or remove subscriptions to trade publications and memberships to trade groups. While you’re combing through key documents, look out for testimonials and other evidence of work results and happy clients and colleagues.

May: Catch up on relationships

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner. As you tend to your personal relationships, remember to take some time out to nurture your professional ones. Block out time to see professional contacts—friends and mentors, from inside and outside your company and industry. It’s been several months since the holiday networking season, so now is a good time to get in touch. If you don’t proactively schedule catch-up time during the year, you’ll forget.

June: Do a mid-year review

Even if your company does not have an official review process, give yourself one. Revisit the goals you set in January: Are you on track? Gather evidence of wins you can share with your boss—use the testimonials you found from your April spring cleaning! Make a plan for how you will use the remaining months of the year to build on what’s working and to refine what is not.

July: Do a mid-year review, part 2

Now look out longer-term—past this year, past this job. Do you know what’s next for you in two, five, or 10 years? By asking yourself this question at least once a year, you give space for bigger ideas to pop up. At the very least, update your resume and online profile as a way of auditing your career to date—a good annual habit to get into.

August: Take a vacation

Americans tend to forego their vacations—to the detriment of their productivity and work-life balance. If you haven’t already, take a break before the calendar resets again in September.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

 

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