TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Job Search Tricks That Will Change Everything You’ve Been Doing

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Invaluable advice from the pros

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Finding the right job opportunities—and standing out in a competitive market—is tough. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and hacks out there that are built to help you find your dream job, more quickly and easily than ever.

From an app that helps you optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems to a site that’ll keep all your applications in order, here are 10 tools and tips you’ve probably never heard about that can give your job search a serious boost.

1. Create a Twitter Job Search List to Track Job Listings From Thousands of Sources

Every day, recruiters are tweeting jobs they need to interview candidates for—making Twitter a seriously untapped resource for job seekers. To make sure you’re in the know about these leads, create a Twitter job search list that includes recruiters, hiring managers, company hiring handles, and job search websites. Then, review their tweets daily for potential opportunities.

2. Use JibberJobber to Keep Track of Information You Collect During Your Job Search

It’s easy to get disorganized during a job hunt. So, use a free tool such asJibberJobber to keep tabs on everything that’s going on. You can track the companies that you apply to, note each specific job that you apply for, and log the status of each application (date of first interview, date thank you letter sent, and so on).

3. Use LinkedIn Resume Builder to Create an Updated Resume Fast

If you’re like me, your LinkedIn profile is much more up to date than your actual resume. But if you need to update your resume fast for an available opportunity, don’t spend hours on your computer. Instead, export your LinkedIn profile into a classy looking resume using LinkedIn’s Resume Builder.

4. Put a Short and Unique LinkedIn URL on Your Resume to Stand Out to Recruiters

Instead of using the URL that LinkedIn assigns you with letters and numbers, customize it so it contains your name and the career field or job title you want to go into. (You can do this by clicking “edit profile” and clicking “edit” next to your LinkedIn URL.) This extra keyword will help when recruiters are searching for you, and sticking the URL on your resume will encourage recruiters to head to LinkedIn to learn more about you.

5. Use Resunate to See How Your Resume Scores on an Applicant Tracking System

Sick of not knowing if a human being is even reviewing the resume you worked so hard on? Resunate is web-based software that shows you how your resume would score on the applicant tracking system—and helps you improve it for every job you apply for.

6. Use SocialMention to Manage Your Online Reputation

While job searching, it’s important to keep your reputation crystal clear. To monitor what’s being said about you online, check out Social Mention, a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you across the web’s social media landscape in real-time.

7. Use LinkedIn Groups to Contact Someone You Don’t Have an Email For

If you want to contact someone at your dream company but can’t find the right contact information anywhere, check out the person’s public LinkedIn profile and see what groups he or she is part of. Then, join the group where you share a mutual interest. Once you are in the same group, you can send a message through LinkedIn. Just make sure you include something about your common interest in your message—it’ll make you seem like a networker, not a stalker.

8. Use Insightly to Manage and Organize Business Cards You Collect

Insightly is a free CRM system that helps you manage your key contacts and relationships—and it’s a great tool for your job search. After you meet someone, put his or her contact information in this system, and write down important information you learned from your conversation. Then, create a reminder in the system to follow up on a certain date in the future.

9. Use Contactually to Create an Automatic Follow-up System

A big job search mistake is to only focus on meeting new people and forgetting about the people you already know. In fact, it’s extremely important to keep up with your current relationships! Contactually helps you consistently reengage with the most important people in your network by sending you automatic reminders to email people you haven’t talked to in a while.

10. Update Your LinkedIn Status Daily to Stay Top of Mind

This will make sure that you’ll stay on the radar of everyone you know—read: that they’ll remember you when an available opportunity opens up. How to do this without being annoying? Share an article, a quote, or a project you’re working on. Other ways of showing up in the LinkedIn news feed are by getting recommended, by adding a new connection, by joining a group, or by changing your photo.
Put these simple “hacks” into practice, and you’ll quickly see an improvement in your job search results. Meaning: You’ll land that dream job oh-so-much faster.

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 job search

5 Ways to Speed Up Your Job Search this Fall

Desperate to get out of your current gig? Use this data on the job market to help you find your next move—fast.

Even if you’ve had it up to here with your current job, you probably slowed your search for a new one during June, July, and August.

Between summer Fridays, long weekends, and week-long vacations—your own and those of your bosses—you likely found the situation just a little easier to swallow. Not that you’d have had much choice: In most industries, hiring activity is sluggish in the dog days of summer anyway.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, though, you might be thinking about buckling down on your hunt for the red-hot opportunity. Good timing. Many fields experience a frenzy of hiring in the fall, as companies rush to use extra funds in personnel budgets by year’s end.

To put your search in overdrive, consider one of the following bold moves. You might be surprised at how soon you’re having that exit interview you’ve long been running through in your head.

1. Use the Most-Desired Keywords

Job listing aggregator Indeed.com reviews millions of online employment ads across thousands of sites to find common keywords. The 10 below are the fastest growing. So if you’ve got any of these skills already under your belt, wear them proudly in your résumé and cover letter as well. (And if you don’t have ‘em, ask around to see if it’s worth getting more experience in these areas.)

  1. HTML5
  2. MongoDB
  3. iOS
  4. Android
  5. Mobile App
  6. Puppet
  7. Hadoop
  8. jQuery
  9. PaaS
  10. Social Media

2. Go Where the Jobs Are

Picking up and moving isn’t an option for everyone. But for those who have the flexibility, relocating your career may pay off.

Job listing site CareerBuilder recently assessed total job growth for the 50 biggest U.S. metro areas between 2010 and 2013 versus the growth that would have been expected in the locations based on national trends to come up with what it called the “competitive effect.” Due to specialized industries, these locales had the greatest edge:

CITY # JOBS ADDED, 2010-2013 KEY HIRING INDUSTRIES
1 Houston, TX 250,607 oil and gas, mining, architectural and engineering services, education
2 Dallas, TX 221,161 commerical banking, computer systems, education, hospitals
3 San Francisco, CA 165,768 computer systems, Internet businesses, corporate management
4 Los Angeles, CA 283,664 TV/film, payroll and accounting, medical instruments, missile and aerospace manufacturing
5 Austin, TX 84,774 data processing/hosting, computer systems, scientific/technical consulting, semiconductors
6 Phoenix, AZ 124,501 higher education, commercial banking, professional organizations, semiconductors
7 Miami, FL 134,588 legal services, business support, freight transportation, payroll services, real estate
8 San Jose, CA 90,559 computer systems design, computer/semiconductor manufacturing, software publishing
9 Detroit, MI 125,330 motor vehicle manufacturing, engineering services and temporary help services
10 Riverside, CA 76,646 warehousing and storage, offices of physicians, and heavy and civil engineering

Alternately, you might focus your search on one of these cities, which Indeed.com found to have the greatest number of job listings per capita. You’ll notice a bit of overlap. Also worth noting: San Jose, which makes both lists, is also the only city among the 50 most populous with a ratio of 2 to 1 for job postings per unemployed person, according to Indeed.

METRO AREA JOB POSTINGS
PER 1000 PEOPLE
1 San Jose, CA 123
2 Raleigh, NC 90
3 Washington, D.C. 82
4 Boston, MA 80
5 Hartford, CT 79
6 Baltimore, MD 74
7 Denver, CO 74
8 San Francisco, CA 70
9 Charlotte, NC 70
10 Austin, TX 64

3. Get In on a Growth Industry…

According to Indeed.com, these five fields have experienced the greatest growth in job listings over the past year. The easiest ways to switch to a new field: Look for a role that parallels yours (for example, if you work in marketing at a retail firm, you could look for marketing jobs at a transportation company) and/or focus on your “transferrable” skills. The good news is that growth fields often experience labor shortages, so you have a better chance as someone without industry experience than in other fields.

INDUSTRY GROWTH/
PAST YEAR
GROWTH/
PAST QUARTER
GROWTH/
PAST MONTH
1 Transportation 122% 33% 9%
2 Hospitality 43% 1% -1%
3 Construction 39% 4% 1%
4 Manufacturing 35% 5% 2%
5 Media 24% 5% 2%


4. …Or a Growth Occupation

Similarly, changing your role can help you gain more traction in your search. The “hottest jobs of 2014” list below from CareerBuilder includes roles that grew 7% or more from 2010 to 2013, are projected to increase in 2014, and pay $22 or more per hour.

JOB CATEGORY TOTAL EMPLOYED IN 2013 JOB GROWTH,
2010-2013
MEDIAN HOURLY
EARNINGS
1 Software Developers, Applications and Systems Software 1,042,402 11% $45
2 Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists 438,095 14% $29
3 Training and Development Specialists 231,898 8% $27
4 Financial Analysts 257,159 7% $37
5 Physical Therapists 207,132 7% $38
6 Web Developers 136,921 11% $28
7 Logisticians 127,892 10% $35
8 Database Administrators 119,676 10% $37
9 Meeting, Convention and Event Planners 87,082 14% $23
10 Interpretors and Translators 69,887 14% $22

5. Target Companies that are Hiring

A few weeks ago, Time ran an article from its partner site The Muse on 10 companies that are hiring like crazy right now. These include professional services firm Deloitte and textbook retailer Chegg.com and software company Atlassian.

Besides checking out those companies, you might also look into the following, which CareerBuilder reported were hiring in August.

COMPANY INDUSTRY LOCATIONS
1 ADP Human capital management CA, GA, IL, NJ, NY, TX
2 Advanced Technology
Services
Factory maintenance, industrial
parts, IT services
Nationwide
3 Bloomin Brands Restaurant Nationwide
4 Bohler Engineering Professional engineering services DC, FL, MD, NC, NY, PA,
VA, and New England
5 DialAmerica Call centers CA, FL, IN, NE, PA, SC, TN
6 DLZ Engineering Engineering IL, IN, MI, OH
7 Eagle Transport Corporation Transportation DE, FL, GA, KY, TN, NC,
SC, VA
8 Elderwood Senior care NY, MA, PA, RI
9 Guckenheimer Hospitality/food service CA, MA, MO, WA, TX
10 Healthfirst Health care FL, NY

You might also take a hint from this graphic from aggregator Simply Hired: Concentrate on companies in the Inc 500 list, as this phrase appears in job ads more often—by a wide margin—than Fortune 50, 100, or 500.

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

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

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.

__________

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

 

MONEY Careers

Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

Human resources office door
The person behind this door can give you some valuable insights related to your career. Image Source—Getty Images

A well-placed mole can tell you when key decisions are made, how to ask your boss for a raise, and more, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

If you don’t have friends who work in human resources, you might have a very narrow view of what happens there: It’s the place to go during benefits selection time; it’s the place where people get fired; it’s a mouthpiece for the company.

Like most people, you probably only contact HR is when you have a problem.

But as someone who has worked in the field for more than 20 years—both inside companies and outside as a consultant—I can tell you that getting to know the people who work in your human resources department can be very valuable. HR professionals work on career-related issues every single day. And you can take advantage of that expertise to better manage your own career.

Don’t yet know anyone in HR well enough to ply them for insights? Invest some time to build a connection: Invite someone to lunch whom you’ve worked with on matters related to work—say, filling an open position or promoting a star. Also, look at your LinkedIn and Facebook connections to see if you know someone in HR even if not in your own company; they can still be helpful to you. And the next time you’re contacted by a recruiter, return the call and suggest meeting up.

Once you’ve got your lunch planned, here are five areas you might want to talk to your HR buddy about:

1. What the straight story is on company benefits

Better than a hotline, your friend in HR can translate the doublespeak from the benefits guide into information you can use. Your friend might not know every nook and cranny of the guide, but if you have a specific interest (say, elder care issues), he or she can probably point you to the expert on her team who knows this well. Medical benefits is definitely a company perk you want to understand well.

But you might also ask if there are other benefits you’re entitled to that you are likely overlooking. There may be training and development opportunities, or even discounts to local attractions or consumer services (e.g., cell phone plans) that your company offers its employees. Your friend in HR knows about these because it’s part of his or her day-to-day.

2. How the decisions that affect your pay are made

What data is used to establish pay ranges? When are raises and bonuses decided? Are promotions granted at specific times only? Does every department do performance reviews at the same time, in the same way?

If you want to keep your career moving on an upward trajectory, you need to know how decisions are made around raises, bonuses, and promotions. This includes when decisions are made (if it’s once a year, start planning now so you don’t miss the next cycle), who decides (it’s not just your boss) and how your group compares with others (maybe you’re in a department with little upward movement and need to switch).

You can’t ask your boss or immediate colleagues for this information without revealing your intentions, and they may not know the whole story. Someone in HR, however, deals with these issues frequently, and across different areas of the company.

3. When exceptions are made to the rules

In addition to knowing how the processes typically work, your friend in HR probably also knows about any exceptions to the rule.

Any decent professional keeps confidentiality, and HR issues are absolutely confidential. However, your friend in HR can let you know if exceptions have occurred and how likely they are.

For example, you could find out if bonuses really are paid out only at year-end. Your HR friend may not be able to reveal who got the special spot bonus or how much it was, but might say, “I’ve seen it happen from time to time” or “I did hear of one case when…” And if you’re working on an extra assignment and feeling undervalued, your pal may suggest you lobby your boss for special consideration. At least you know an exception is possible, and it’s on you to press on for what you want.

4. How things compare between your company and others

Are you fairly paid? Is every company in this industry restructuring so frequently? Are work-at-home opportunities just not available in your line of work?

Your friend in HR doesn’t just look at career-related trends inside your company. He or she also needs to have a sense for what other companies are doing to ensure your firm stays competitive. Use that competitor knowledge as a shortcut for your own research.

5. How to approach your boss with requests

Now that you have all this useful knowledge about what benefits you might select, how decisions are made, possible exceptions that could apply to your situation and what competitors are offering, you may want to ask your boss for something—access to that special training conference, a promotion, a special bonus. But you don’t want your meeting with your boss to be the first time you practice this ask.

It is incredibly helpful to role play what that negotiation will look like with someone other than your boss who is experienced in career negotiations. This is another perk of having a friend in HR. He or she has sat through offer negotiations, performance reviews, and other career discussions much more frequently than you (and maybe even your boss). He or she can pepper you with questions you can practice in advance, or give you tips on what works and what doesn’t.

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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:

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

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

New Degree, No Job? 4 Steps Grads Should Take to Jumpstart the Search

MONEY Careers

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Sell Yourself as an Expert
Standing behind a podium gives you some serious expert cred. Even better if you're actually giving a speech. Colin Gray—Getty Images

Career coach and former HR exec Caroline Ceniza-Levine shares her advice for getting people to think of you as an expert.

In today’s competitive job market, it is not enough to promise you’ll get the job done. You need to already have a track record of accomplishment.

With smaller headcount, employers are gun-shy; they’re wary of making a hiring mistake when they do have the rare opportunity to fill a slot. So they try to hold out for the perfect candidate.

That means it’s even more critical that you are perceived as someone the employer can’t live without—the best in what you do, the go-to person, the expert.

For experienced professionals, this means being seen as the best for your industry (e.g., media, banking) or role (e.g., sales, financial analysis). Even new entrants to the job market can differentiate themselves as expert in baseline skills (e.g., computer software, communication skills, leadership potential).

Here are 10 ways to establish your expertise:

1. Collect testimonials. Post testimonials on your own website, if you have one, and on LinkedIn. If you say you’re great, it’s bragging. If someone says it about you, it’s social proof. Pick people who know your work well. Email or call them (however you normally communicate) and explain that you are editing your profile or website and would appreciate a recommendation from them. Be prepared to coach them on the specific details you would like them to emphasize—if they worked with you a while ago, they may not remember exactly what you did.

2. Hitch your wagon to brand names. You want people to know you were already selected by the best (and therefore the most selective) employers. Easy enough if the companies where you’ve worked are household names, but if not, look for ways to define them in a superlative fashion in your resume and on LinkedIn. For example, if a previous employer was a Fortune 500 company or leader in its field or the biggest of its peers, say so.

3. Share in another expert’s halo. When you’re going for a job or looking to meet someone important in your network, have someone you know who’s especially well revered in the field put in a good word for you. As a recruiter, when I got a referral from someone that I highly regarded, I regarded that referred candidate more highly.

4. Get published. Pen a guest post for a blog or newsletter that serves your industry. Authorship conveys expertise. (Ahem.) If you’re a member of an association that puts out a newsletter, contact the person in charge of putting it together and suggest ideas. If you’re a reader of a specific blog, it might have instructions right there on how to submit an idea; if not, contact the editor.

5. Get quoted. Not up for writing an entire article? Lend your expertise as a source. Network with journalists who cover your area—you can find them via HARO as well as Twitter—and let them know you are available at any time. Give them your cell phone number, even. Journalists love to know they have a go-to source who will pick up the phone when they’re on deadline. Remember to speak in catchy, therefore publishable, sound bites when they call.

6. Speak in public. In addition to writing, speaking is an effective way to share and promote your expertise. Consider conferences organized for your industry or for general professional associations (e.g., women’s groups, young leaders, MBAs) Volunteer to speak at an alumni event or career-services workshop for your alma mater. Put a Google alert on keywords and phrases, such as “TedX” or “call for speakers,” to get notified of speaking opportunities.

7. Get certified. Continuing education in your field implies that you are staying on top of the latest developments and keeping your skills updated. This could mean getting an advanced degree or formal certification. Depending on your field, it may be enough to take one-off courses without a full certification, attend conferences or lectures or join a professional association or Meetup.

8. Lead your peers. Don’t just join a professional association; head up a committee or sit on the board. Such groups always need volunteers, so it’s unlikely your offer to help will be turned away. No active group in your field? Start one or revive an inactive one—as the person who takes the initiative to bring like-minded people together, you put yourself in a leadership role.

9. See around corners. When you’re interviewing for a job in your target area, don’t just establish your current skills; establish how your knowledge can be applied to help the employer. When you go above and beyond what you know and talk about how you would actually apply it to situations your prospective employer might be facing, hiring managers see you as someone who has practical expertise.

10. Take a stand. In addition to knowing the trends and innovations, have a vision to propose. When you make suggestions to a prospective employer, you are seen as a solution to their problems. When you have opinions and ideas, you demonstrate leadership potential. You don’t just follow; you create new possibilities, new solutions. Employers will want you to implement that solution for them.

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.

 

MONEY Careers

Your Career Is Your Biggest Asset. Here are 5 Ways to Protect It

Career coach and former HR exec Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers strategies for ensuring that your human capital keeps appreciating.

Your earning potential is a million-dollar asset.

The first quarter 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report puts median earnings in the US at $796 per week, which adds up to $41,392 per year, which amounts to a hair over seven figures over a 25-year career—even without any raises. Get a reasonable 3% bump every year and your career will be worth $1.6 million.

If you owned a million-dollar home, you wouldn’t let the grass get overgrown or park your cars in the lawn, since this would erode the property’s value. Similarly, you do not want to be complacent with the asset that is your career. Instead, reserve a few minutes a day or a few hours each week to focus on protecting it.

Use these five strategies to ensure your most valuable asset just keeps getting more valuable:

1. Nurture your network

Job leads are shared mainly by word-of-mouth.

But even if you’re not actively job seeking, a strong network enables you to hear about company changes, upcoming projects that you might want to be a part of (or avoid), the inside scoop on a new client, or helpful tips on how promotions, raises, and bonuses are decided.

Maintaining your network can be done in a few minutes per day.

Your action plan: Read your LinkedIn activity feed and reach out when people post news. E-mail former colleagues you don’t regularly see to catch up on summer vacation plans. Attend the occasional professional association event or conference. Or, block out specific days and times to reconnect with people —for example, scheduling at least one lunch a week with a different contact.

2. Make friends in HR

A former colleague called me in a panic one day: Layoff rumors were swirling at her company and she wanted to know how severance works without making a formal inquiry into HR. Having worked as a recruiter, I was able to tell her what she needed to know (severance information is actually openly shared with employees–check your employee handbook).

Your action plan: Get to know your HR colleagues well before you have an urgent concern. A friend in human resources can help you navigate the ever-changing benefits landscape, can explain sensitive issues like severance that you’d rather not discuss with your boss, or give you helpful insights, such as deadlines for performance reviews (these often precede when raise and bonus decisions are made so you want to know the timeline). Even HR relationships outside of your own company are helpful, as recruiters elsewhere can inform you about market trends—including what is a fair compensation for your position. Return recruiter phone calls, even if you’re not looking.

3. Manage your references

If you’re not actively looking for a job, you might think that you don’t need references. While you don’t need them in the traditional sense that a job seeker does—no one will be calling your list to vouch for you—informal references are given all the time. Recruiters may ask around to find an expert in a certain area: Will your network mention you, and therefore give you a chance to grow that recruiter relationship (see point 2)? Senior management may ask around about who would be good for an upcoming, high-profile project: Will your colleagues think of you and regard you highly enough to put your name forward? Managing your references means that you have supporters who know your value and promote you as opportunities arise.

Your action plan: Keep people informed of what you’re doing–don’t assume that even your boss knows everything you’re working on—and what is of interest to you. This way, the right opportunities will come your way.

4. Build your online profile

Social media is a great way to keep in touch with your network, your recruiters and your references.

Your action plan: Update your LinkedIn profile regularly to mention a new project or to add a new skill, since this activity is broadcast to your contacts. It’s a way of keeping people updated and staying in touch more broadly. At the same time, you will hear about others’ activities, and you can reach out individually with a congratulatory note or a helpful idea. Finally, you want your profile to be updated so that, if someone does refer you for a job or a project, the prospective employer can easily research you and see comprehensive details about you. Building your profile takes dedicated time if you’re starting from scratch, but updating it and maintaining correspondence with your contacts takes just a few minutes at a time.

5. Maintain your go-to status

Your online profile showcases you, your references think of you, recruiters flock to you, and your network promotes you… all because you are the go-to person for something. You have a set of skills, industry knowledge, specific expertise, or some combination of qualities that make you the perfect solution to a problem at hand.

Do you know what you are the go-to person for? Do you take the time to sharpen this advantage?

Your action plan: Define your unique qualities that make you marketable. And work on emphasizing your competitive advantage even more.This could mean taking advanced classes relating to your skill set, reading trade publications to stay ahead of trends in your area of expertise, or adding new skills with volunteer work or cross-departmental projects at your company.

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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.

 

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