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:

 

MONEY

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Yourself in Job Interviews

Job interview interrogation
Henrik Sorensen—Getty Images

These "A" traits commonly put otherwise great candidates out of the running, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

The letter “A” is often associated with good things: bring your A-game; get an A rating; be on the A-list.

But when it comes to job interviews, it’s a scarlet letter. Remember—and avoid—these five deadly traits starting with A. The worst thing possible for your chances is to have the hiring manager describe you as…

Anxious

You might be nervous in an interview, but you don’t want to show it. The interviewer will doubt your ability: Can I put you in front of senior executives? Can you handle top customers? Can you perform in high stakes events?

How to avoid appearing anxious: Role play in advance with a friend, mentor or coach (ideally someone who has hired before). This way, the actual job interview is not the first time you are selling yourself, explaining your body of work and answering tough questions. Your rehearsal also lets you practice being nervous and performing well anyway.

Arrogant

Ideally you demonstrate confidence—knowledge of the industry, company and role at hand—instead of anxiety. However, you don’t want to be overconfident, which can be interpreted as arrogance. No one wants to work with a know-it-all.

How to avoid appearing arrogant: Watch out for making sweeping recommendations that might conflict with inside knowledge you won’t know as someone who doesn’t work there yet. Don’t correct the interviewer or ask such probing questions about the company that you turn the conversation into an interrogation.

Angry

You might be looking to leave your job because you don’t feel challenged or there’s no room to advance or you are at odds with the company strategy. So you might be tempted to say so when the interviewer asks what is missing from your job. Or maybe you just get put on the spot with a question like, “What don’t you like about your boss?” or “Who is your most difficult client or colleague?” Beware of coming across as negative or judgmental, as these qualities can be interview killers. People hire people, and people especially hire people that they like and who seem approachable.

How to avoid appearing angry: Stay neutral in your tone of voice. Minimize the talk about your old job and focus on the job at hand, specifically your interest and excitement for it. You have to respond to negative questions if the interviewer asks, but point out a constructive recommendation instead of complaining: I would love to work on emerging markets, but this isn’t the company’s focus. I do my best work with more autonomy but my boss is more hands-on. My clients are terrific, but I’d like to focus on the Fortune 100 and our company serves middle-market. My colleagues are terrific, but I’d like to see more resources devoted to X and there isn’t budget for that right now.

Apathetic

Some candidates think that remaining apathetic will help them negotiate better offers because they look like they can take or leave the job. But employers want to hire people who want them. A job interview is not the time to be coy about your interest in the job.

How to avoid appearing apathetic: Tell the interviewer why this company is where you want to work and why this role is exactly what you want to do. Keep your energy high. You never want the interviewer to think you don’t really want the job. In the above example, you can use your high level of interest to keep from going negative: I’d like to focus on emerging markets, and that’s why this role is of particular interest to me. I work best autonomously, and your company culture is well-known for its entrepreneurial spirt.

Available

Displaying neediness or desperation is a turn-off. You want to make yourself seem busy and in demand—that you could walk away from the table if need be. While you want this employer 100%, you are not waiting by the phone for a Saturday night date!

How to avoid appearing too available: Beware of going overboard on enthusiasm—the too-available person will ask to start tomorrow, as if they have nothing better to do. Also don’t talk about working on your job search, even if that’s all you’ve been doing. You want to talk about projects you are on, people you are meeting, conversations you are having, news you are reading. All of this will give the sense that you are actively networking with their competitors, pursuing other opportunities, and staying busy. That said, the unavailable person will always say that will make time for the ideal employer, that they will find a way to work together: I would love to collaborate in some way. Let’s keep the discussion going.

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:

 

MONEY job search

How to Cold Call Your Way to a New Job

Phone Book
Lisa Noble Photography—Getty Images

Get a stranger to give your career a boost with these three easy steps from career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Cold calls are not just for salespeople.

In the course of your job search, business launch or other career transition, you will need to reach out to people you don’t know. You may be looking to get their insights, to expand your network, or to get information you need to make you a better candidate.

Don’t be afraid. If you’re respectful of their time, you focus on your commonality, and you are specific in your ask, you should be able to engage a stranger’s attention fairly easily. Use this three-step guide to a concise but captivating cold call or email.

1. Establish your common bond.

The first thing you have to do is introduce yourself. But don’t just default to your standard professional introduction. Pick the description of yourself that establishes what you have in common with the person you approach, even if it’s not career-related. For example, I’m a Money.com blogger but also a business owner, career coach, recruiter, Barnard graduate, wife, mom, stand-up comic, et cetera.

If I am approaching a Columbia alum, I may open with Barnard graduate, even though I attended years ago. If I contact a journalist, I may open with Money.com (or some other publication if we both wrote for that other one).

The best choice is dictated by the person you are contacting, not what you typically use as your pitch.

2. Explain why they are “the one.”

In the above example, the Columbia or journalism connection is the first step in my hypothetical cold call, but it’s still incomplete. There are lots of Columbia alums and lots of journalists. Why am I contacting this particular one?

Perhaps I read an article that cited them. Perhaps they work in a company or in an area that I am researching. Perhaps they gave a talk somewhere, and I am following up on something they said.

You need to explain why the person you are contacting is unique, so there is urgency for this person in particular—not some other alum or journalist—to get back to you.

3. Pick a small and specific request.

Once you have established a common bond and explained to your cold contact why he or she is the only one who can help you, you need to explain how he or she can help.

Your ultimate goal may be a job or a sale or a career change. But don’t ask people for any of these.

A job lead, for example, is too big a request this early in the relationship. This is also not a specific enough request: Does it mean you want to speak to HR? Are you inquiring about a particular opening? Are you asking this person to hire you?

Your new connection won’t be able to get you directly to your end goal on the first call, but there are many small, specific steps in-between that he or she may be able to help with.

For example, if you reach out to someone because they work at your dream company, ask about the organizational structure of the specific department you are targeting. Ask about the person who runs that group. Ask about projects in the pipeline or key objectives. The answers to all of these questions will enable you to better position yourself for the job, but these requests are not in themselves about getting a job.

By asking for a job, you put your cold contact on the defensive. By asking about the business, you demonstrate that you care about making an impact.

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:

 

MONEY Careers

3 Easy Résumé Fixes to Help You Make a Career Change

Yellow highlighter
Rob Chatterson—Corbis

Ready to move to a new industry or a new kind of role but can't get employers to pay attention to you? You might need to tweak your C.V., says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Recently, I coached an experienced healthcare executive who wanted to switch industries. She had substantive experience in business development, research and project management, but had been sending out her résumé with little response.

This is a common problem of career changers: Your résumé points employers in the wrong direction—to your past. It represents a field that you no longer want, so don’t get called in for the jobs you do.

However, with these easy adjustments, your résumé can help—rather than hinder—your career change.

1. Highlight qualifications that cut across industries and roles

When you describe your roles, take out any industry-specific jargon. You want your prospective employers in other industries to be able to see you working for them. The healthcare executive that I was working with needed to focus on general research skills, rather than make specific references to clinical research or medical research. What skills do you have that cut across industries—sales, project management, people management, marketing, analysis, financial acumen?

2. Demonstrate relevancy

Employers will be reluctant to hire someone whom they have to teach about the industry or the job. So you need to show that you have already have demonstrated some movement in that direction. Professional work experience is an obvious choice to demonstrate expertise…but then you would no longer be a career changer. Courses or certifications, professional associations and conferences, and volunteer work are more realistic ways that you can get hands-on experience with an industry, and this activity gives you something to put on your résumé . What can you use to prove that you’ve done something related to your new career area?

3. Reference emerging trends

In growth areas, demand for talented candidates exceeds supply, so employers in those fields are more open to considering outsiders. This healthcare executive had led business development for data-intensive projects, which relates nicely to the red-hot area of Big Data. By referring to her sales focus with phrases like Big Data or market analytics, she emphasizes an expertise for which multiple industries are competing, not just healthcare. What hot skills can you highlight—digital marketing, social media, customer engagement, Big Data?

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:

 

MONEY Careers

How to Make Sure Your Next Raise is Bigger than 3%

Rulers in bar graph
Make sure you know how your boss measures success. Laura Flugga—Getty Images

Your year-end review isn't as far off as you might think. And if you want more money, you should think ahead toward that all-important meeting, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

In my 20-plus years working in HR-related roles, I have never met anyone, management or staff, who looked forward to performance review season.

So, chances are, you aren’t thinking ahead to your annual year-end sit-down with the boss. It’s only July after all. There are months to go until your review, and you’ve got an overflowing list of priorities to complete before the year is over.

But you might want to put some review preparations on that to-do list—and pretty high up—if you want a promotion or a bigger-than-average raise for next year. You need time to find out what your goals should be, to create a portfolio of your accomplishments, to fill any performance gaps, and to plan for what you want from your manager. It takes time and effort to do all of these things, which is why the middle of the year is the best time to start getting yourself ready for that end-of-year review.

What to do now to make sure your review will pay off:

Confirm goals and metrics

Do you know what your company goals are, and are you working on the right things? With so many companies restructuring, it’s highly likely that strategic goals for the business have changed. If you’re not sure you’re in alignment, meet with your boss now—you don’t have to wait for an official review—to discuss what you should be working on. You also want to confirm how success will be measured. Even if you’re a salesperson, it might not just be sales dollars. The company might prioritize the number of new customers you’ve brought in, the extent to which you’ve expanded business with existing customers, how well you’ve sold a specific new offering or the profitability of each sale. Get a copy of the performance review form to give you a clearer idea of what will be measured and how.

Itemize accomplishments to date

Are you doing well on what you are working on? Calculate the results of your efforts where they can be quantified. Collect testimonials for intangible accomplishments like customer service or team collaboration. Gather supporting documents, such as recent presentations or summaries you have put together. With measurable results, referrals and recommendations, and samples of your work, you now have a portfolio to show what you specifically have contributed.

Fill in gaps

What do you need to focus on in the next 30, 60, and 90 days leading up to your year-end review? Compare your accomplishments to-date with company goals and metrics to see if you have been focusing on the things your boss and senior management value. If you have neglected something—a client, an initiative—then block out time on your calendar now to fill these gaps specifically. Of course, you want to maintain your performance in other areas, but don’t forget whole objectives and projects that may be key priorities. You want a review that shows you got all of your work done.

Plan your ask

What do you want your next steps to be? Is there a specific project or client you want? Do you want a promotion or above-average raise? Once you have made efforts to ensure that your review runs smoothly, you can start thinking about the other reason for this process—to plan for the future. Plan now what you will ask for, so you can drive the discussion towards that end goal: “…and all of this is why I deserve that 5% raise!”

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:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

MONEY Careers

How to Convert a Summer Internship Into a Full-Time Job

Employee walking through office building security gate
Igor Emmerich—Getty Images

Start laying the groundwork now for your first step into the working world, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Now that we’re past the mid-point of summer, it’s time to start planning how to turn that summer placement into a full-time stay. (Parents of summer interns, talk to your kids about this now!)

Even those who are interning just to experiment with the field should still act as if they want a full-time job. This way, if you do decide you like it there, you will have done your best to land an offer; if it turns out you don’t want to continue, you’ll be poised for a great reference elsewhere.

Here are five steps to take to position yourself for an offer at the end of your internship. These tips also apply to temporary staff looking to become permanent, as well.

1. Focus on the job you have. When I ran internship programs and temp/ freelance placement, I would always see a handful of hires who were so focused on converting to a permanent job that they spent more time lobbying for their next placement than focusing on the one they had. This is a big mistake. If you can’t do what’s already given to you, you won’t get more (and for the worst offenders, you might find yourself with an earlier end date). You must willingly, excitedly, and accurately do what is asked of you. You always volunteer for more and become known for being a generous, collaborative team player. You double-check your work and earn a reputation of being someone who minds the details. You get the job done, and people see that you always complete your work on time—or even early. You do your job well, so that another one (perhaps that permanent offer) is waiting in the wings for you at the end of your current placement.

2. Confirm the process. While your current job is priority numero uno, you still want to pay attention to next steps—that is, how does conversion to a full-time offer actually work at this firm. Many companies use their internship program and their temporary hiring as an entry point to full-time employment. Employers take it as a positive sign of interest when you inquire about the steps you need to take to be considered for full-time employment. Some companies have a formalized process, including a mid-internship and/or end-of-internship evaluation. Ask for this evaluation form— you want to know the criteria you will be judged on. If the process is more informal, ask your manager or the HR person who hired you what they would recommend you do—perhaps they’ll say to check in a few weeks before your end date or simply to submit for posted jobs on the company site.

3. Get regular feedback. Even if your company offers a structured evaluation process, you need to ask for regular feedback. Don’t wait for the middle of your internship or temp assignment either; ask for a weekly review of how you’re doing, especially in the first few weeks of your stay. You don’t know the company or your manager well enough to accurately gauge performance expectations. Asking for direct and candid feedback will ensure you can nip any problems in the bud. Even if you’re doing a great job, feedback is essential so you can do more of whatever it is that your manager thinks highly of. You also line up evidence of good performance for when you ask for that full-time job later on.

4. Attend company-wide events (or make your own). Make an effort to meet people outside your immediate department. You might love your group and they might want to hire you, but what if there is no full-time position there? Many companies organize internship programming, which may include networking events to mingle with people from around the company or panel discussions that feature senior management or even new hires. If you’re temping, pay attention to any company-wide town halls or mixers you can attend. If none of these events are offered, ask your manager if you can be introduced to different parts of the company so that you can learn more. If you’re doing a great job, your manager will appreciate your interest.

5. Ask for the job. As you near the end of your short-term stay, tell your manager and/or HR contact that you’re interested in a full-time position (remember to confirm the process so that you know exactly whom to ask and when). People are busy, and if there is no formal process, they may dilly dally on what needs to be done to extend your time there. For students who won’t be taking full-time jobs till after the next academic semester or year, the company may overlook putting you in the system or confirming an offer for after you graduate. Sure, you can negotiate a full-time offer and process the details after you leave, but it’s so much easier and more seamless while you’re already in the company. You’re front of mind. You’re already in the payroll system. Don’t just leave before trying to finalize the conversion to full-time.

__________

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:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

MONEY Careers

How to Make Sure You Sail Through a Reference Check—Before You Even Apply for a Job

Lie Detector machine
Do coach your references on what you'd like them to say...but stick to the truth, of course. Pictorial Press Ltd.—Alamy

Congrats on making it past the interview round! But don't rest on your laurels—the reference check may be the deciding factor in who gets the position.

You’re in the throes of your job search, and things are looking up—with any luck, the recruiter will call soon to ask for your references.

References are important, and definitely not a throwaway step to be considered last-minute. In fact, you shouldn’t only be nurturing your network of references when you’re seeking a job. Remember, these are people who already know and like you. Keeping your references updated ensures that you hear about trends and opportunities in your field—even if you’re employed now you don’t want to miss a great lead.

Here are the right and wrong ways to manage that process:

DON’T just ask your former supervisors to be references.
DO ask vendors, consultants, clients, peers and direct reports.

Your supervisors will always be your most requested reference. However, over the course of your career, you work with a variety of people—not just for your immediate supervisor. Sometimes you work more closely with others than with the person you report to on the organizational chart. Therefore, you need to think more broadly about who can speak for your work than just a boss. Furthermore, your different collaborators can speak to different elements of your work—vendors see your negotiation skills, consultants gauge your teamwork skills, clients know your service quality, peers see you day-to-day, and direct reports know your management style.

DON’T wait until the recruiter asks to check in with your references.
DO line them up in advance.

People move around. You don’t want to find out right before you need the reference that you can’t find that supervisor who knows your work so well. You also want time to find alternative references if one of your choices seems lukewarm when you contact them, or is just so tough to reach that they may not get back to the recruiter in a timely fashion.

DON’T assume references know what to say.
DO coach them on what to highlight.

Your references haven’t worked with you in a while and have since managed others. They won’t remember exactly what you worked on. They also don’t know this job you’re going for so won’t know what to emphasize, especially if you did a lot of different things when you worked for them. Therefore, you need to help them help you—remind them of that big project or key client you want them to discuss, share the job description, and tell them you would appreciate it if they talked, say, about your analytical skills.

__________

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:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

5 Ways Microsoft Employees (and You) Can Prep for Layoffs

MONEY Careers

What Microsofties Can Do to Prep for the Coming 18,000 Layoffs

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer at Microsoft Corp
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted at the cuts last week in his 3,000-word email to employees. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Redmond, Wa. tech giant announced that it will be cutting more than one out of every 10 employees. Here, Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine tells workers how to get prepared for the pink slips.

In an email sent to staffers last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about restructuring the company to “streamline” and “simplify.” Those reading between the lines were taking this to mean that layoffs were coming.

Looks like the doomsday predictors were right: The company announced today that it would be cutting 18,000 jobs in the next year as part of a restructuring. In other words, more than one in every 10 employees will get the boot. Those in departments that had overlapping functions at Nokia—which was recently acquired by Microsoft—are said to be most vulnerable, but those in marketing, engineering and software testing may also see pink slips.

No doubt employees there are nervous. But their best move—and yours, if you find yourself in a similar position—is to channel that anxious energy into getting prepared in case you are asked to vacate your office quickly.

What the Microsofties should be doing:

1) Getting familiar with their company’s exit policy. Most companies post their severance policy in the company handbook or on the intranet. The Microsofties should review this so they have an idea of what they are entitled to should the worst come to pass. Looks like execs at least get a pretty nice package, though they’re constrained from working for a competitor for the next 12 months.

2) Protecting their personal data. Of course, client information, project documents, and any other intellectual property belongs to the employer. But many employees blur the lines by using their professional email and/or work phone number for personal bank and credit card accounts, social media profiles, or other non-professional parts of their lives. Microsofties should change over any accounts to their personal email address and phone number so that they don’t disrupt access if that contact information is no longer valid.

3) Collecting contact information from colleagues and supporters. Employees will want to maintain their networks if they leave. So they should make sure they have emails and phone numbers for the people they want to keep in touch with—colleagues, vendors, consultants, direct reports, senior management. They should move this info to their personal Outlook (if continued use of that Microsoft program won’t be too painful for you!) or personal cell phone. You will have to return company equipment if you’re laid off, so don’t leave your contacts behind too.

4) Updating their resumes and online profiles. While their latest projects and accomplishments are still fresh in their minds—and they can refer to supporting documents as needed—the Microsofties should be updating their resumes in (ugh) Word and on LinkedIn. This way, if they’re laid off, they are ready to start their job search immediately. Lucky for them, 70% of managers at tech firms anticipate doing more hiring in the next six months, according to Dice.

5) Continuing to drink the Microsoft Kool-Aid. Remember, just because you hear rumors of layoffs does not mean they will happen soon or affect you. Therefore, the Microsofties should continue to work hard even while they prepare for a worst-case scenario. That means maintaining a positive attitude despite any negative talk in the company spa (yep, that’s a real thing). Maintaining high performance standards even if colleagues decide to give up. Remaining professional so that they position themselves for continued career advancement at the company or elsewhere.

Continued strong performance under tough conditions may be the tipping point that convinces the decision-makers to keep you on. Even if it doesn’t, you ensure a strong reference because you continued to do your job.

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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:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

MONEY Careers

How to Network Your Way to a New Job in Just 5 Minutes a Day

Businesswomen saying hi in an office
You'll be smiling too, if all this networking pays off. Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers some easy ways to stay connected with your contacts. No name tags or awkward conversations required.

Does the word “networking” send shivers down your spine? Maybe it would help if I told you that networking doesn’t have to be a big production or a big time drain.

Of course, you want to attend conferences, join professional groups, and have lunches with contacts. Those activities are absolutely worth the investment, but you can do them sparingly.

In between, resolve to network for just five minutes a day. The 10 simple activities below require little preparation, will cost you no money, and can be done during your coffee break. With these ideas, you’ll have no excuse not to network each and every day. And you thought you were no good at networking!

1. Send a birthday greeting. LinkedIn and Facebook both highlight birthdays. Or, you can add your professional contacts’ birthdays as annual events to your Outlook calendar. When you see that it’s someone’s big day, email that person directly with a brief personalized note.

2. Offer congratulations. Social media sites also highlight big moves and wins, including job changes or work anniversaries. You can also use a specialty tool like Newsle, which links to your contact list and lets you know when any of your contacts is cited in the news. When you see good news, send a direct message to congratulate, again personalizing the note.

3. Say thank you. Surely, someone did something nice for you in the past week. Maybe it was a colleague who dug up a report you needed. Maybe it was an old classmate who forwarded an alumni event you would have overlooked. Send a quick email to thank that person: Hi John, thanks again for helping me find that Client X info. I finished the report, and you made my life SO much easier. You’ll probably make that person’s day.

4. Post a career-related article on Facebook. If you’re only using social media to share selfies and personal news, you’re missing an opportunity to remind people what you do professionally—which helps put a bug in your friends’ ears in case they hear of cool opportunities relating to what you do. You don’t need to post your resume to make a professional statement (please don’t, in fact). But you can post an article related to your role or industry, and write a comment that showcases your knowledge. If people aren’t interested, they’ll skim. But if someone is looking for your expertise, they’ll now know to contact you.

5 . Update your social media status. Even if you don’t have an article to recommend, you can post about something you’re working on. It doesn’t have to be detailed, and it doesn’t have to be promotional. An example: Whew! Looking forward to normal working days now that I’ve finished our quarterly revenue analysis.

6. Acknowledge other social media activity. When someone else posts something about what they’re doing—professionally or personally—write back with encouragement, suggestions, or just to acknowledge that it’s nice to hear from them. For example: You popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s been too long since we connected. How are you?

7. Change up your email signature. Your email signature is a passive networking tool: It’s included in your correspondence automatically, and you can use it to include information relating to you and your activities. My email signature rotates every few weeks and includes upcoming events plus titles of my most recent articles (with links).

8. Take a walk around your floor. A strong network is a diverse network. It’s tempting to fall into a rut of hanging out with the same people, typically the people in close proximity to you. Take five minutes to walk to other areas in the office. Say hello and chat with people you don’t regularly see. Then, if you ever have to work on a cross-departmental initiative, you will already have established at least some relationship with your extended colleagues.

9. Ping a random contact Build the habit of picking a contact at random from your phone list or Outlook contacts, and email that person just to say hello. This gets you in the habit of doing some networking each and every day, and it also ensures that you reach out to a wide variety of people, not just the people you naturally think of.

10. Share a recommendation. In the last week, you probably experienced something new—read an article, ate at a just-opened restaurant or tried a new recipe at home. Think of one new thing and of one person you know who might enjoy whatever it is you did. Email that person with the article, restaurant name or recipe, including a short note saying that this new thing made you think of them. They’ll be flattered to pop up front of mind and will appreciate hearing about something new.

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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:

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

 

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