TIME Business

The Road Not Taken: How Getting Fired Boosted My Career

TV host Mika Brzezinski attends Children Roots of Resilience Gala on Sept. 9, 2014 in New York City.
TV host Mika Brzezinski attends Children Roots of Resilience Gala on Sept. 9, 2014 in New York City. Paul Morigi—2014 Getty Images

Mika Brzezinski is the Co-Host of MSNBC's Morning Joe.

"Each job interview set me deeper back; deeper into knowing it was over"

This Influencer post originally appeared on LinkedIn. In this series of posts, Influencers explain how their career paths might have changed. Read all the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #RoadNotTaken in the body of your post).

The road I took was set in stone for me at a very early age, influenced by two dynamic parents. My father exposed me to the medium of television — tagging me along on his interviews at “Nightline” and “Charlie Rose.” I got the TV bug immediately as a preteen. I loved how news stories were put together and presented on air.

My mother, a sculptor, tells stories as well — she has a 50-year career of using an axe and a chainsaw to reveal the “stories” inside massive tree trunks. Twelve pieces are on display right now at the Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., including my all-time favorite, “Lament.”

So the road started early for me. Telling stories. Communicating a message. Developing my voice in this evolving medium over the course of more than two decades. Sometimes there is no way to take a different path when it is what you love — even when it doesn’t love you back.

I trudged through 10 years in local news, worked overnights at CBS News for four years, hosted a cable show for women for two years after that until finally settling into what I thought would be a life-long career as a correspondent for CBS News. My first week on the job was 9/11. I traveled America finding stories for “The CBS Evening News,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” even “60 Minutes.” Anchoring the CBS Evening News Sunday edition felt like a feather in my cap.

Just shy of my 40th birthday, the road ended. I was called down to the office of the President of CBS News and was told, “They were moving in a different direction.” I was being fired. I. Was. Fired. They liked my work… but didn’t like it anymore… or just had other people coming in… Whatever it was, my days at CBS News had abruptly come to an end.

Being fired is an out-of-body experience. I remember it like it was yesterday. A mixture of anger, feeling victimized, feeling exhilarated and free, and feeling scared shitless all at once. But then the time starts to pass, and if you are like I was, the NEXT job couldn’t come soon enough.

I sent my work to other networks and the response was… crickets. I went from everything to everyone to nothing to no one. If I did get an interview, the first question was: Why were you fired? I didn’t have an answer because I didn’t really know. Each job interview set me deeper back; deeper into knowing it was over. It’s hard to fight nothing. No phone ringing. No calls back. Just “No thank you,” from everywhere I applied. I would re-apply six months later. Nothing.

I did get an audition to anchor the local news at the ABC affiliate in Washington. I was told I was close… down to three. I went for the audition and was desperate for the job. So desperate it was written all over my face. They gave it to the talented Alison Starling who is still there to this day.

At about nine months of nothing, with severance running out, I knew I had to find another road. I began the task of applying for any job anywhere. I was overqualified for many jobs I applied for online, but still got no calls. Slowly… ever so slowly, I got responses from a few major PR firms. One, just one, called me in for an interview. I had the skills and the experience to do PR well.

It was at this time that a good friend — a talented producer at CBS News — was in the process of getter fired too (or “released from her contract”). The turnover was continuing there and this time, it was my friend’s turn. Since I had been through it, I was coaching her through the process — the hurt, the anger, the loss, the fear. I was reliving it all with her. Knowing the place and the players, it really was like my loss all over again. She was one of the best producers there and had taught me everything I know about voice control, studio tracking and storytelling.

My job interview turned into another one until it was down to a final round. A job as a VP at a major PR firm. Real money. It was the kind of money that would keep the family moving forward. We were at a dead stop with no hope in sight. This job was a potential lifeline… right there for the taking.

I was waiting for the call to line up the last round. I’ll never forget the moment. Driving my pickup up the hill near my house, the ’93 Ford 150 with roll-up windows just stopped… Stalled out and died. I knew that meant another $500 at the shop. $500 that I did not have. Then my cell phone rings. It’s the PR firm. Wanting to know if I can come in this week…

I put the truck in park in the middle of the road and listened to myself as I said, “I’d love to come in but I have to be honest; I know someone better for the job. Perfect actually.” I then began to sing the praises of my soon-to-be fired friend. It came out of my mouth as if I had been practicing it forever… So easy to say, because it was true. She was perfect for the job, and I was not. I knew this road, as much as I needed one, would not be taken by me.

I remember clunking my head on the steering wheel after I hung up asking myself: “Why, WHY?? You need a job so badly!” But I knew it even then. There was still only one road for me… and that this one wasn’t it. I knew even then I would have to find my way back to that road I chose at 13 years old. Somehow.

It took many more months, but I called every network known to man and begged for ANY job they had available. I found myself LEAPING at the opportunity to work a day rate, part-time, freelance job at MSNBC reading 30 second news cut-ins — a job I probably would have scoffed at 15 years prior.

Eight weeks into working the “cut-in shift” at MSNBC, Don Imus was knocked off the air for making unfortunate comments. MSNBC was on the hunt for a new morning show…

I was back on the road again.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

How to Find The Perfect Job for You

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Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Should you follow your passion?

It may not be that easy unless we can all be athletes and artists:

Via So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love:

In fact, less than 4 percent of the total identified passions had any relation to work or education, with the remaining 96 percent describing hobby-style interests such as sports and art.

Chase money? Income doesn’t affect job satisfaction at all and job satisfaction affects income more than you might think. Happiness is only about what you earn when you get paid by the hour.

And money isn’t everything. There’s also sleep.

What topped the list of the most sleep-deprived professions?

  1. Home health aides
  2. Lawyers
  3. Police officers
  4. Physicians

So what should you do? Let’s look at the big picture.

Job satisfaction is key because work is often a bigger source of happiness than home, ironically. Enjoying our jobs has a great deal to do with how much control we feel we have and whether we’re doing things we’re good at. Social factors are huge too.

Happy feelings are associated with “the fulfillment of psychological needs: learning, autonomy, using one’s skills, respect, and the ability to count on others in an emergency.”

What do we know about the happiest and unhappiest jobs?

It’s interesting to compare these jobs with the list of the ten most hated jobs, which were generally much better paying and have higher social status. What’s striking about the list is that these relatively high level people are imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies. They see little point in what they are doing. The organizations they work for don’t know where they are going, and as a result, neither do these people.

What makes for a satisfying job?

…the strongest determinants of job satisfaction are relations with colleagues and supervisors, task diversity and job security.

Using your “signature strengths” — those qualities you are uniquely best at, the talents that set you apart from others — makes you stress less:

The more hours per day Americans get to use their strengths to do what they do best, the less likely they are to report experiencing worry, stress, anger, sadness, or physical pain…

You want to experience “flow”. It’s when you’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing that the world fades away.

There are a handful of things that need to be present for you to experience flow:

Via Top Business Psychology Models: 50 Transforming Ideas for Leaders, Consultants and Coaches:

  1. Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  2. Immediate feedback.
  3. Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between personal skill level and the challenge presented.
  4. Strong concentration and focused attention.
  5. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.

And you want to be someplace where you’re treated like a partner — not an underling.

Via Gallup:

Learning something new and interesting daily is an important psychological need and one of the most prevalent attributes that people in communities with high wellbeing have in common. A key element in work environment wellbeing, being treated as a partner rather than as an underling lays a foundation for higher employee engagement and productivity, as well as better emotional and physical health.

Any specific jobs to avoid? Lawyers are miserable.

Martin Seligman, psychology professor at UPenn and author of Authentic Happiness, clues us in as to just how unhappy lawyers are:

Researchers at John Hopkins University found statistically significant elevations of major depressive disorder in only 3 of 104 occupations surveyed. When adjusted for sociodemographics, lawyers topped the list, suffering from depression at a rate of 3.6 times higher than employed persons generally. Lawyers also suffer from alcoholism and illegal drug use at rates far higher than non-lawyers. The divorce rate among lawyers, especially women, also appears to be higher than the divorce rate among other professionals. Thus, by any measure, lawyers embody the paradox of money losing its hold. They are the best-paid professionals, and yet they are disproportionately unhappy and unhealthy. And lawyers know it; many are retiring early or leaving the profession altogether.

Job satisfaction isn’t just about your job. Try to make yourself happier: overall happiness causes job satisfaction more than job satisfaction causes overall happiness.

Happiness makes us successful – yes, that’s causation, not correlation. (Employers should try to make their employees happier too: happy employees make for rich companies.)

And unless you’re really desperate, you might want to think twice about settling. People with no job are happier than people with a lousy job.

American workers who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace — known as “actively disengaged” workers — rate their lives more poorly than do those who are unemployed. Forty-two percent of actively disengaged workers are thriving in their lives, compared with 48% of the unemployed. At the other end of the spectrum are “engaged” employees — American workers who are involved in and enthusiastic about their work — 71% of whom are thriving.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Words That Can Doom Your Career

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You've probably been overlooking this all along

“To whom it may concern” — you should never use this bland business-letter greeting in your cover letter.

Like most default modes, “To whom it may concern” is effortless — in other words, lazy. And when you’re job-hunting, that’s not the first impression you want to give. It conveys the message that you couldn’t — or couldn’t be bothered to — figure out the name of the hiring manager who’s going to read it.

“Hiring and the job search have changed dramatically with the advent of new technologies,” says Joe Essenfeld, founder and CEO of recruiting software company Jibe. “It would send a bad message if a job seeker were unable to use simple search tools and social networks to personalize their outreach.”

“It demonstrates that you took initiative and did your homework before deciding to apply to this position,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at mobile career network TheLadders.

This probably is going to mean some extra legwork on your part. “Sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible, to track down those names,” says Art Glover, an expert panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management. But it usually can be done, he adds. “A good web search and a bit of networking and sleuthing will often give you the information,” he says.

Here’s where to look.

Start with the company. You might be able to figure out who you need to reach right from the careers section of the company’s website, Augustine says. “Don’t forget to check out… their career-specific social media accounts and their page on Glassdoor,” she adds.

Try social networks. LinkedIn is a no brainer, but in some cases, you might need to dig a little deeper. “Run an advanced search on your professional social networks and see if you know anyone who currently works or previously worked at your target organization,” Augustine suggests. This person might be able to tell you who the hiring manager is, or maybe pass your application along directly.

Check online job postings. “On some job sites such as TheLadders, the recruiter who posted the job may associate the posting with their account or include their contact information in the body of the job description,” Augustine says.

Pick up the phone. If all else fails? “Go old-school and call the company to find out,” Essenfeld says. Call the main phone line or human resources department. “Putting in a little effort can go a long way,” he says.

Get the HR director’s name. If you can’t track down the hiring manager’s name, you can at least direct your letter to the company’s HR head.

Read next: 27 Pre-Written Templates for Your Toughest Work Emails

TIME Business

Job Fairs Are Not Enough

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Mike Stajura is a doctoral candidate at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He served in the U.S. Army from 1995-2002.

Our military drawdown overseas means more veterans will be hunting for employment at home. How can we find them meaningful work?

As the military drawdown in Afghanistan continues, the United States will add an additional 80,000 veterans from the Army alone to the civilian workforce. This is on top of the normal annual rate of separations from military service. On this Veterans Day, let’s think about all of America’s soldiers who are receiving pink slips.

Members of the military receive rigorous training from a very selective institution, and they served their country under difficult circumstances that required adaptability, perseverance, teamwork, and maturity. What more could an employer want?

It would seem a lot more. Despite the many veteran employment initiatives out there—put forward by the White House, mayors’ offices, corporations, and nonprofit organizations—it’s still difficult for veterans to find work, let alone jobs that use them well. The Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families offers one explanation that applies to me and other veterans I’ve talked to: many veterans take work that is a poor fit for their knowledge, skills, ability, and experience. This leads to dissatisfaction, lower performance, and job-hopping.

If you were a helicopter mechanic in the military, then it makes sense to seek work fixing helicopters as a civilian. It’s harder for veterans whose primary military job skills don’t directly translate to the civilian workforce. As an infantry officer for the Army (who left before the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started), my work included managing a fleet of armored vehicles, supervising the distribution of water in Honduras, and assisting a State Department official in Bosnia-Herzegovina. When I completed the coursework for my doctorate degree in public health, I started applying for emergency management and disaster services positions.

I wasn’t even getting called for job interviews, though. Rather, I’d get letters saying that I met the education and skill requirements, but didn’t have the “right” experience for a job. They were looking for specific junior job titles on my resume that I would never have unless I was to start at the lowest rung of the career ladder at 41 years old.

I was rejected from about a dozen jobs in three months. Even after working with mentors and consulting with guides to help veterans find civilian work, it was hard to figure out how to present my skills and experience. The “skills translator” at www.military.com said that in civilian-speak I was trained in “message processing procedures.” Seriously?

I got my next two jobs precisely because I am a veteran. The first employer emailed a job announcement to a group of Los Angeles veterans because he had a contract with the Army and needed someone who could “speak Army.” I became highly prized for my ability to produce PowerPoint slides and “decision-support matrices” according to Army norms.

My second job involves an organization that serves veterans and their families. During the first three months, I worked on occasional tasks but I could not even explain to other employees what my job was because I didn’t have an official description or direct supervisor.

This was very different from the Army, where everyone has a clear task and there’s constant interaction and feedback. Things finally changed for the better after I explained that I needed a project and accountability.

Michael Poyma, an employment specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Michigan, has heard many stories similar to mine. And he thinks some of the most common approaches to matching veteran job seekers and employers need to be rethought. For example, both job seekers and employers have told Poyma that many job fairs are a waste of time. While some people find jobs this way, it’s a drop in the bucket. They also create high-pressure, high-expectation situations that can magnify disappointment.

Poyma and others have also noted that veterans gravitate in disproportionate numbers towards certain fields: government service, law enforcement, government contracting, work with veterans. These jobs allow veterans to continue working in a familiar environment related to public service.

But isolation can just entrench the misunderstanding. This is why Chris Marvin of Got Your 6, and previously, The Mission Continues, has embarked on projects to help veterans integrate fully into the civilian world that they have rejoined. The Mission Continues, for instance, puts veterans to work painting houses, tending community gardens, or mentoring kids at a wide range of community and nonprofit organizations.

Poyma and other VA representatives are about to start pilot seminars will seat potential employers and veterans on opposite sides of the room, separated by a “demilitarized zone.” He will conduct exercises to dismantle the demilitarized zone by discussing systemic barriers to employment (some of which I’ve already talked about, but others such as the cost of retraining for civilian licenses), the stigmas that follow veterans, and each side’s particular acronyms and jargon. In the end, he hopes to demonstrate that there is hidden value in a veteran’s resume if employers will only take the time to look.

Mike Stajura wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Looking for a Bump in Your Paycheck? Here’s Where to Look

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Geri Lavrov—Getty Images/Flickr RF

These are the jobs and skills companies want

Employers around the country are trying to fill roughly 4.7 million vacant positions, and that number grew by nearly 800,000 between the beginning and middle of 2014.

A whopping 96% of organizations told the Society for Human Resource Management they’ve hired full-time employees over the past year in the group’s new economic conditions survey. Two-thirds have hired part-time workers, and more than half have hired full- or part-time contract workers.

More than 80% of high-tech companies told SHRM they’ve added full-time contract workers. Almost three-fourths of educational services companies have hired part-time temp or contract workers.

Although there has been plenty of commentary about a skills gap in the sciences and technological fields, the positions companies today are trying to fill vary widely. Six in 10 of hiring companies are adding administrative staff, more than half are hiring financial and accounting professionals and about half are looking to fill managerial or executive-level positions. Other hot job categories include IT and HR.

That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt job-seekers to brush up on their skills. About half of companies today are looking for workers to bring new skills to the replacement jobs they’re filling, a figure that climbs to nearly three-quarters in the technology sector.

This requirement is making it tougher for companies to fill these positions, so applicants who have kept their skills up-to-date will go to the front of the line. Only 4% of companies say that it’s “very easy” today to fill full-time positions that require new skills, a sharp drop from the 16% who gave this response in SHRM’s 2010 survey.

Over that same time frame, the number of organizations who judge it “very difficult” to fill these positions climbed 9 percentage points. This gap is especially acute in manufacturing, where an increased reliance on robotics and high-tech production methods means factory floors offer fewer, but higher-skill jobs.

“The recession eliminated a lot of line jobs that weren’t as skilled,” says Jennifer Schramm, SHRM’s manager of workforce trends. “Now the jobs that remain need to manage those robotics and, of course, that’s a much higher skill set.

Over the past year, roughly two in five companies have increased salaries, and one-third have offered employees bonuses. (Read why that might not be so hot here.)

If you’re looking for a one-time or regular bump in your paycheck, check out jobs in the professional, scientific or technical services field: Nearly half offered either raises or bonuses in the past year.

Other categories where a large number of employers report hiking salaries include manufacturing and high-tech, as well as finance, insurance and real estate. Nearly half of finance, insurance and real estate companies report offering bonuses, too.

More than 80% of hiring companies are replacing jobs that had been previously lost, but there’s plenty of opportunity for job-seekers to forge new ground: More than 60% are hiring for completely new positions, and two-thirds say they’re creating and filling more new positions today than they were a year ago, and over 40% are hiring people to replace existing jobs, but with new duties.

“It looks like getting the right credentials and education are important today and are going to be more important in the future,” Schramm says. Since companies are actually cutting back on how much they invest in worker training and education, that puts the onus on the job-seeker to pay for those certifications or degrees on their own.

Since education is already pricey and getting even more expensive, make sure your educational investment will give you what you need to move ahead in your career. “The trajectory is that more credentials and education are needed today than were in the past across all job categories,” she says.

TIME Careers & Workplace

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

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Gregory Kramer—Getty Images

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

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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

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