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April 27, 2011

Always Be Learning: How to Gain New Career Skills

IStock_000011836410XSmall Career development doesn't end when you land a job. Nor does it become entirely your employer's responsibility. Lifelong earning about your industry and your profession (as well as adding peripheral skills) not only makes you more valuable to a current or future employer, but also provides new opportunities to network -- on your own behalf or on your employer's.

And recent HotJobs polls show that taking steps to gain new skills can really put yourself ahead of your career competition. When asked, "In the past year, have you enrolled in career-related classes or training (not mandated by an employer)?" 59 percent said no. And when asked how many career- or professional-development books they'd read in the preceding year, 60 percent said, "None."

So there are two good ideas right there: reading a book and enrolling in a class. And then after you read that book or take that class, think about how you can maximize your effort -- and advance your career or add some polish to your professional profile. For instance, you could:

  • Start a discussion about what you've learned, in an industry forum.
  • Write a book review or a class summary for your blog or for a company intranet or newsletter.
  • Offer to create a presentation about what you've learned, for your colleagues.
  • Start a conversation with the book's author on a social platform.
  • Add the class's teacher to your professional network.


All of these ideas would allow you to use what you've learned to "show off" a little bit. And as long as you don't take it to annoying extremes, that's what professional self-promotion is all about.

But taking a class and reading a book aren't the only ways to learn new things. Here are some other ideas:

  • Attend industry conferences and seminars (often, volunteering at a conference is a great way to attend sessions for free or for a discount).
  • Look for online seminars (or "webinars"); these are often free or relatively low cost.
  • Create Web alerts for terms related to your industry, so you can stay abreast of news and developments in your profession.
  • Conduct informational interviews, or ask to job-shadow people in other professions or departments.
  • Institute a knowledge-sharing program at your work, at which people share their field's best practices with other teams. (Or just start a lunch-break book club, at which you read and discuss professional-development books.)
  • Study a language -- although English is an international language of business, knowing a little bit of a foreign tongue can be incredibly helpful in a shrinking world.


This is by no means an exhaustive list (for more learning ideas, see "Fun Ways to Beef Up Your Resume") -- but I hope it gets you thinking about ways you can gain new skills. Now share your ideas in the Comments section below.

Also, did you know you can get rewards for learning new skills and performing other career-building activities? Check out DailyFeats, a new community where you earn points, build community, and save money on real-life expenses, just by doing good. 

Posted by Charles Purdy on April 27, 2011 at 07:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Your Dream Job Is Out There

Recent Monster.com polls show that job seekers are much more hopeful this year than last -- and many more believe that a dream job is out there for them.

That's great news, and we want to make sure that all this renewed optimism leads to better careers and better lives. So here are some quick tips on turning your dream job into a reality:

Do your research.
Informational interviews can be a great way to get the inside scoop on a company or a job -- and they're a great way to network. (Get tips in "Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview.")

Other great ways to learn about new fields (and to meet potential contacts) include taking classes in your desired field, volunteering or interning, attending industry conferences, and job-shadowing (Get more advice on job-shadowing, in "Try On a Career Before You Commit.")

Make a plan.
As a goal, "get dream job" can seem daunting (if not downright unachievable). So after you've done your research, think about the many steps it will take to reach your goal. What do you need to achieve first?

Put your plan on paper, and make it as detailed as possible -- this will help you gain clarity about what's required, and it'll help you stay on track. Your first step may be to complete some necessary classes; your second step, to build a personal website and update your blog once a week; your third step, to develop a self-promotional marketing plan; and so on.

And don't forget to reward yourself for completing important milestones!

Get connected.
The right time to start networking is before you need to ask for help in your job search. Approach your networking now with the mindset, "How can I help people?" Also look at social-networking sites -- they're a great way to interact with companies you'd like to work for, or with people who are "stars" in your industry. Get involved in the conversations on these and other platforms.

Before you start reaching out to new contacts, though, make sure that you're presenting yourself professionally across all your online profiles. This is not to say that you have to be "all work" online -- it's OK to post things about your family, vacations, hobbies, and so on. None of these are topics that you'd avoid when speaking to manager at your job.

Think of it this way: There are things you would tell your mother, things you would tell your best friend, and things you would tell your boss -- and whatever you put online should be things you would tell all three.

Get more networking tips here: Monster.com's collection of Networking Advice.

And check out some of these results of the Monster Workplace Survey:


Posted by Charles Purdy on April 27, 2011 at 06:43 PM in Career Development , Interview , Job Search , Networking | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 26, 2011

The Secret to an Organized, Happy Job Hunt

Stever Robbins is the CEO of JobTacToe.com, a site that helps job hunters stay motivated and moving in their job hunt, as well as the author of "Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More" -- when it comes to organization and productivity, he knows what he's talking about. We asked him to share his tips on a successful job hunt; here's what he had to say:

When you’re job hunting, you want to spend your time finding and pursuing jobs, not shuffling through piles of paper looking for a misplaced phone number of a potential employer. Being well organized for your hunt is a must.

Get a people-tracking system. A job hunt is all about the people you meet. You’ll need to keep track of them with a good contact-management system. Use an existing address book program like Apple’s Address Book or Outlook. You can also use a Web-based system such as HighRiseHQ.com, which lets you track people, the emails you've sent and received, and notes from conversations.

Track reference information.
You’ll be doing research during your job hunt, and you need to keep it filed so you can get it when you need it. Start with about 20 digital folders on your computer desktop, or 20 file folders and a package of notebook paper.

Label one file folder for each industry you’re researching -- for example, "Industry-Banking," or "Industry-Fashion." This is where you file articles about industry trends and news, so you can make smart conversation when meeting people in that industry. If you're looking in multiple industries, create a file folder for each industry.

Label another folder according to the job you want to do -- for example, "Function-Graphic Designer" or "Function-Programmer." Here, file information about your job function. If you read that graphic designers now must know Python, save the article in this folder. Use this folder to prepare interesting topics when talking to a hiring manager. If you're looking at several job functions -- say, graphic designer and marketing associate -- have separate folders for each.

If you may move for your job, label a third folder for the location. For example, "Geography-New York" or "Geography-Amsterdam." File information about cities in these folders: cost-of-living articles, the flavor of different neighborhoods, and so on. You'll need this kind of information to negotiate your starting salary and decide where to move.

Use files to track opportunities and companies.
Your most important folders will be named for companies. Collect information about the company’s background, current news stories, notes from your talks with company employees, and so on. These files help you choose a company, ask good questions at your interview, and show you’ve done your research.

Use files to track your process.
In addition to reference folders, you'll use folders to track the job-hunt process. Create folders labeled "Contacts," "Opportunities," "Applications," "Interviews," "Offers," and "Negotiation." Each folder is one step in landing a job with a particular company.

When you meet someone new, write his or her name at the top of a document, along with the company they work for. Put the document in the Contacts folder. This is your new tracking silp. Whenever you contact the person, jot notes about what you said and what follow-up you need to do.

When you know there's an opportunity at that company, create a document dedicated to it for the Opportunities folder. If you then apply for a job, move it into Applications. When you have an interview scheduled, the paper goes into the Interviews folder; when an offer gets made, it goes into the Offer folder; and its last stop is the Negotiation folder.

These folders are your daily agenda. Review them and follow up with each opportunity. Start with the Negotiation folder. Then follow up through Offer, Interviews, Applications, and Opportunities. Finally, review the Contacts folder and touch base again with anyone you're just getting to know who you would like to keep in touch with for your search.

As your job hunt progresses, move the tracking sheet through the tracking folders. Put your detailed information into the Company, Geography, Industry, or Job Function folders, as appropriate. When you have files set up to track your reference material and your process, you can put your mind on your job search, confident that all the tracking will work out just fine.


Posted by Charles Purdy on April 26, 2011 at 06:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2011

The Monster 5 for Friday--Careers Edition--April 22

Happy Earth Day! Here are five of our favorite career-advice and job-search articles from this week:

5. Could you be more environmentally conscious on the job? Check out the tips in "Be Green at Work." 

4. Summer is coming -- it's time for teens (and many adults) to start thinking about summer jobs. Check out these summer job-search tips

3. Get tips on standing out in a sea of competitive candidates, in "8 Questions Job Seekers Should Ask Themselves."

2. Are you selling yourself as well as possible to potential employers? Get tips, in "How to Market Your Skills in Your Job Search." 

1. Technology is changing the way we interview for jobs -- it's becoming likelier that your next interview will be by phone or video conference. So check out "Tips for the Virtual Job Interview."

Do you need job-search advice? What job-seeker topics would you like to see covered? Leave a message for us in the comments section below, or find @monstercareers on Twitter and send a message.

Posted by Charles Purdy on April 22, 2011 at 07:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 20, 2011

Could You Do a Better Job Than Your Boss?

In a recent Monster homepage poll, we asked, "Could you do your current (or most recent) boss's job better than he or she does?" Here's what you had to say: Bossjobbetter

Of 3,032 U.S. respondents, 69.23 percent think they could outperform their boss (and more than half of those respondents would describe their boss as "incompetent"). And less than 12 percent think of their boss as "brilliant."

It seems there are fewer incompetent bosses in Canada (35.6 percent) and more brilliant ones (13.5 percent); overall, 66.4 percent of Canadian respondents said they could do a better job.

European bosses fared just slightly better and slightly worse than that: 34.5 percent of respondents said they had an incompetent boss, but 12.6 percent said they had a brilliant boss.

The results from our Asian Monster sites including Malaysia, Singapore, and India were slightly more flattering to bosses: 28.8 percent said they had an incompetent boss, 61.3 percent said they could do a better job, and a relatively whopping 18.4 percent claimed to have a brilliant boss.

It seems that we can safely say that perceptions of boss incompetence are universal. Of course, to be fair to bosses, we should also note that other people's jobs always look easier from the outside -- and half of the responsibility for the boss-employee relationship is the employee's. For tips, read "What to Do If Your Boss Is Incompetent."

What's your boss like, and how do you cope with him or her? Let us know in the Comments section, or find us on Twitter or Facebook and be in touch.



Posted by Charles Purdy on April 20, 2011 at 02:58 PM in Career Development , Networking | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2011

The Monster 5 for Friday--Careers Edition--April 15

You're busy -- these days, who isn't? So we like to save you time by putting five of our favorite job-seeker-advice articles in one place for our readers. Here they are, your "5 for Friday":

5. Why are manhole covers round? If you were an animal, what type would you be? Have you ever been thrown for a loop by bizarre interview questions like these? If so, check out the advice in "How to Survive Weird Interview Questions."

4. Think your after-interview thank-you note is nice but optional? Think again. Read Career Rocketeer's "What to Consider When Writing Thank-You Notes."

3. The rules and requirements of job interviews have changed. Get tips, in "Job Interviews: How to Turn an Interview into an Offer."

2. We're coming to the end of National Volunteer Week -- and volunteer work can look great on a resume. Find out how to frame volunteer experience, in "Leverage Volunteer Work on Your Resume."

1. Are you (or is someone you love) graduating from college soon? Get job-search tips, in "Standing Out from the Crowd."

Do you need job-search advice? What job-seeker topics would you like to see covered? Leave a message for us in the comments section below, or find @monstercareers on Twitter and send a message.

Posted by Charles Purdy on April 15, 2011 at 04:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2011

Make Genuine Connections to Build Your Professional Network

IStock_000007894668Small Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to advance your career, networking is very important (in a 2010 HotJobs poll, 57 percent of respondents said that networking was a factor in landing their most recent job). And networking shouldn’t end when you log off of a social network or head home from a conference. Valuable contacts are on the perimeter of your social circle, they’re the parents of your kids’ school chums, they’re sitting next to you on airplanes—basically, they’re all around you every day. So how do you turn these people from relative strangers into valuable network contacts?

Step 1: Identify good contacts.
An effective professional network has a wide variety of types of people, including people from outside your industry. So how do you decide whether someone you meet at a cocktail party is someone you want in your circle? Career expert Liz Ryan says it’s more about “feel” than logic: “You’ve got a certain style and approach, and people who are comfortable with you and with whom you’re comfortable will make up your A-list for network cultivation.”

Look for people who are active in and passionate about their field (whatever it is), and who seem interested in what you’re doing. Also, people who communicate well are likely to be “connectors” who have their own networks that you may be able to tap into.

Step 2: Manage your contacts.
Productivity expert Stever Robbins, the author of “Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More,” offers tips for managing the business cards you receive:

First, if you’re at a conference or a similar event where you’re receiving a lot of business cards, Robbins suggests jotting down quick memory-aid notes on the backs of cards—so when you enter the contact in your digital address book, you can record (in the Notes field) the name of the conference and what you talked about.

Then, immediately after you put a new person into your address book, send a brief “Great to meet you” email—with a note about your conversation and a brief follow-up.

Step 3: Offer value.
Effective networking begins long before you need to get something from your network. First, you must demonstrate that you have something to offer—this builds a foundation of goodwill. Every time you talk to someone in your professional network, you should ask what he or she is working on, so you’re aware of the problems your contacts are trying to solve.

In his book “Well Connected: An Unconventional Approach to Building Genuine, Effective Business Relationships,” executive coach Gordon S. Curtis offers suggestions on how to offer value to a new contact: consider how you could supply information, new clients, or interesting products—or even other contacts. Curtis explains, “If you make the right introduction, both parties will feel you’ve done them favors.”

Step 4: Stay in touch.
Your efforts to meet, record, and court new contacts are wasted if you let relationships lapse. An effective networker is participatory and involved.

Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be—in fact, your networking efforts shouldn’t take a lot of time (don’t “spam” your network by mass-sharing things of little value). Read an interesting article or book? Ask yourself who else might benefit from it. Planning to attend an industry conference or networking event? Find out how you can get more involved. Have something to say? Update your blog, and comment (thoughtfully) on the blogs of people in your network.

Step 5: Get back from your network.
If you’ve been conscientious about maintaining connections with your network, asking for something like an introduction or a favor will seem less like an imposition.

One key to getting results is to make specific requests of specific people. Sending your entire network a tweet saying, “My interior-design firm is accepting new clients!” probably isn’t enough—because it’s not speaking directly to anyone, and it’s not offering a tangible value. A better tactic is a targeted message to the right people—for instance, an email, describing your expertise in decorating boutique-hotel lobbies and asking for an introduction, to a contact in the hotel business.

Be concise with your requests, don’t pester people, and don’t take it personally if someone isn’t able to help you—the reasons may be beyond his or her control. And finally, don’t forget to say “thank you”—if one of your contacts finds a way to help you, look for a way to help him or her, so your relationship will grow even stronger.

What are your networking tips? Share them in the Comments section, for send us a note on Twitter. And did you know you can get rewards for networking and performing other career-building activities? Check out DailyFeats, a new community where you earn points, build community, and save money on real-life expenses, just by doing good. 



Posted by Charles Purdy on April 14, 2011 at 04:04 PM in Career Development , Networking | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2011

Difficult Interview Question: What Do You Like to Do in Your Free Time?

IStock_000001377565Small When recruiters and hiring managers veer from questions about past job duties (and "where you see yourself in five years") to start asking about your free time, they're often trying to figure out whether you'll fit in with the team and the company culture. These questions can provide insight into your personality.

But your hobbies and favorite pastimes also say something about on-the-job behavior, so make sure the ones you describe say good things. Sure, your prospective manager may be an avid TV buff, but if you say your primary hobby is "channel surfing," he or she may see you as (instead of a kindred spirit) something of a couch potato.

Not all of our favorite activities and portray us as we want to be seen at work, so the question "What do you like to do in your free time?" has been known to cause panic. Here's one way to prepare:

On the left side of a piece of paper, write a list of adjectives that describe the perfect person for your target position: conscientious, diplomatic, tenacious,  or whatever makes sense. Then, on the paper's right side, make a list of your hobbies -- include all the things you love or enjoy doing on at least a semi-regular basis. Now draw lines between the hobbies and the characteristics that describe them (many hobbies match more than one adjective). For instance, "being a parent" would match all the aforementioned characteristics, and "running marathons" would match at least the final one.

The hobbies that match a lot of your adjectives are the hobbies you can plan to talk about in your interview (and "channel surfing" probably didn't make the cut).

Note that this isn't about being dishonest: it's very risky to claim a skill or an ability that you don't have, or to misrepresent yourself in any way when you're in a job interview. This is about putting your best foot forward -- showing off your best self. Think about what your different hobbies say about you. For instance, enjoying golf may say you like competition, enjoying crossword puzzles may say you seek out mental challenges, enjoying lake fishing may say you have patience, and enjoying watercolor paining may say you're strongly creative.  

Planning ahead for these tough interview questions will help you shine when the spotlight is on you.

How do you answer this interview question? Or do you have any tough interview questions you'd like help answering? Let us know in the Comments section, or find us on Twitter or Facebook and be in touch.

Posted by Charles Purdy on April 13, 2011 at 07:33 PM in Career Development , Interview , Job Search | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2011

The Monster 5 for Friday--Careers Edition--April 1

It's no joke: according to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since March 2009. It's time to get your job search in high gear -- so check out these not-to-be-missed articles on career advice: a few of our picks on managing your job search (no foolin'!).

5. From technology to social mores, the world is changing. Find out what this means for job seekers in an interesting conversation between personal-branding expert Dan Schawbel and career expert Penelope Trunk, "New Economy Career Advice from Penelope Trunk."

4. Speaking of personal branding, this week we revealed an often-unspoken-about first step to creating your personal brand online: "Using Twitter for Your Career: What Should I Tweet About?"

3. Did you know that money spent on your job search may be tax deductible? As the tax deadline approaches, you should read "Your Job-Search Expenses May Be Tax-Deductible."

2. Does your resume contain a word or phrase that makes recruiters roll their eyes in annoyance? Are you sure? Check out "10 Words and Terms That Ruin a Resume."

1. When you're interviewing with a potential employer, you're probably going to meet people in several roles within the company. Here's a succinct rundown on those roles: "HR, Recruiters, Hiring Managers.... They All Have Different Missions."

Do you have an idea for a career-advice article? Leave a comment, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by Charles Purdy on April 1, 2011 at 12:21 PM in Career Development , Current Events , Interview , Job Search , Resume | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)