Tag Archives: college graduate

For job seekers, modesty is over-rated but confidence never goes out of style.

I was in the park with my young kids the other day and heard a conversation between a child, his mother and one of his mom’s friends.

“David, how have you been?”

“I’ve been great!  I play baseball now!”

“How’s that going?”

“Terrific!  In my last game, I had three hits and a homerun!  I also pitched and got four strikeouts! My coach named me the player of the game!”

Mom chimes in:

“Now Davey! You shouldn’t brag! Remember, there were other kids on that team that helped win the game too!”

Everyone probably remembers a conversation like this from their own childhood. Ever since we were kids we’ve been reminded that it is impolite to brag, take all the credit or boast about our accomplishments.

In my job seeking consultancy the most difficult question to answer is, “So, can you tell me about yourself?”  Our awkwardness in taking ownership for our career accomplishments is also often reflected in resumes and cover letters.

So here’s the deal, job seekers:

Your ‘aw-shucks’ modesty is not endearing; it is hurting your chances of getting a job!

Employers will not correctly guess what your strengths are nor will they safely assume that your skills and accomplishments are a good fit for the job you are applying.

Your ‘aw-shucks’ modesty is not endearing; it is hurting your chances of getting a job!

The only way others will know how your hard work, education and background is tied to your success is when you TELL THEM.  The only way your future employer will know that you have the best skill sets, the most relevant experience and the differentiators that set you apart from your competition is when you make these things crystal clear in every touch point of the job application process.

So, how do you this?

The number one strategy of the successful job seekers I’ve interviewed is a focused, red-hot confidence.

Confidence is not bragging nor is it boasting.  It’s simply and directly stating and describing your very real accomplishments.

Start with your resume.  If you are using ‘wimp’ or ‘fluff’ words and phrases like “Coordinated,” “Helped,” “Highly talented,” “Motivated,” or “Hard working,” your resume will most likely not be seriously considered. If you describe yourself using results-oriented words such as “Senior level,” “Expert in….,” “Led,” “Managed,” “Created,” followed by result-oriented accomplishments, a recruiter will put your resume on the top of the pile.

In addition, if you have quantifiable results use these results to emphasize your accomplishments. For example, “increased sales by 30%,” “Improved customer satisfaction by 25%,” “Increased website traffic by 25%,” “Increased revenue by $25 million in one quarter.”

Lastly, if you are having a hard time talking about yourself in an interview or feel awkward taking credit for your success, ask yourself the following question, “What is your proudest career accomplishment?” Was it a project?  Was it something you did to earn a promotion?  Was it an accomplishment that relied on all of your skills, expertise and integrity? What was required of you to be successful? What part of your background — your education, your experience, your intuition — did you call on to be successful?  Did you have to inspire others?  Did you have convince your boss? How did you measure the results of your accomplishment?

When you start thinking about the things in your career that have made you successful, you start to understand and recognize that describing your successes is NOT bragging, it is simply taking ownership of all of the things that make you, YOU!  That is something every employer wants to understand — what makes you tick? What are the things that made you successful in the past that are going to make you successful at our organization?

Bottom line?  Confidence means not being afraid to take ownership for your successful career. It means providing a deliberate and detailed explanation of how your talents and skills, your accomplishments, your promotions, your leadership and your results are tied to the job your are applying and how those things are valuable to your future employer.

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Touch Points.

One of the most common strategies in successful branding is to develop a believable brand promise that creates a positive perception about a product in the eyes of the targeted audience the product seeks to influence. Through that perception, the brand will trigger a response from the targeted audience, which, if successful, will initiate a ‘trial’ of the product.

If, through the trial of the product, the product lives up to the brand promise that initially influenced the audience to action, then the audience will repeat their behavior and ultimately, if the product continues to deliver on its promise, will create the ultimate in branding success – brand loyalty.  

At each stage – trial, repeat and loyalty – there are specific marketing touch points the brand is using to connect to and influence its audience.

And as a ‘product’ in the marketplace of employment, we also have the power to create our own brand promise and influence the perception of ourselves in the eyes of a targeted audience – in the job seeker’s case, the audience being a potential employer.

The resume, the cover letter and the interview are the three most common touch point opportunities a job seeker has to influence an employer’s perception and opinion.  The job seeker wants to persuade the employer that they match the requirements of the job posting in every way – from the experience, the talents, the qualifications, the skills and expertise; and prove that they will add value to the company and to the department.

In most cases, it is not too difficult to interpret the job posting to determine the most essential requirements and skills the employer is searching for, but in each stage, it is up to the job seeker to connect their relevance to the job posting’s requirement.

The resume and the cover letter are the first touch points and it is up to the job seeker to make the connection from the job posting requirements to their ‘brand’ in order to influence an employer to contact them.

The interview is commonly the most difficult part for job seekers.  It is at this point where you must translate in a person-to-person conversation the elements of your ‘brand promise’ that came across in the resume and cover letter that influenced the employer to contact you (trial) for an interview.

While this is a simplified explanation of branding, job seekers need to think much the same way, because let’s face it, when you are looking for a job, you are the Chief Marketing Officer for yourself.

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, Human Resources, Job advice, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, Social Media Jobs

Ace the Job Interview through Building Bridges


Let’s face it:  the job search process seems a little silly.

Your resume is supposed to spell out your years of experience, expertise and accomplishments using a dozen-or-so short, bulleted synopsis with the hope that someone ‘gets you’ and sees that your background, above everyone else, is the right fit for the position.

Now, saying that, resumes and cover letters are necessary and there are clearly effective ways to write impactful resumes and cover letters that help you to stand out.

Assuming your resume does open the door for you and you are now in the formal recruitment process, you are now faced with an even more daunting challenge: convincing the hiring manager at the interview that you are the right person for the job.

It’s during the interview where you not only must connect all of the relevance to the position they detected on your resume, but also where you must display a true passion and desire for the company and for the job for which you are applying.

I spoke with an HR manager at one of Denver’s biggest ad agencies last week and he told me that the thing that really stands out with him when interviewing someone is that the job seeker displays a level of self-assuredness not only about their skills, but how they can display how their skills translate to the specific job they are interviewing for.

“Often I see job seekers in interviews who are trying to convince me that their breadth of background would be a perfect fit for the company; I need you to connect your background to the specific job your are interviewing for – that is what I will be ultimately be judging you on.

“If someone appears desperate, then they will probably go overboard in describing how they can do anything we ask of them. Often, this also translates to long-winded answers which give us the impression you are boring.  If you are boring me, I’m left with the impression you will also bore our clients.

“Give me short, specific examples of how your background connects to the specific position.   Paint the picture in my head of how you will be the most effective person for this job.  Convince me that you are right for this job.”

Building Bridges

I’ve found that most job-seeking advice sounds good when you describe it, but in fact, is much more difficult in practice.  This is particularly true with advice about how to effectively interview.

The fact is that the end-goal for any job-seeking interview situation is to influence the perception of the person who is doing the interviewing in your favor; you want them to leave the interview believing you are the right person for the job.

One of the biggest mistakes people in interviews make is trying to quickly determine the answer you believe the interviewer wants to hear. There are a couple of things wrong with this approach.  The primary mistake is that you simply don’t know what the interviewer wants to hear; and secondly, you are giving up a great opportunity to display your true grasp of the issue.

When I was the Chief Spokesman for the Mayor of Denver, I perfected a few tricks that helped the Mayor to navigate through tricky media interview situations.

In any interview, we would prepare the Mayor to concentrate on 3-5 messages that HE wanted to get across in the interview – in other words, we worked with him to control weaving these messages into the interview.  So no matter the question, he would tailor his answers back to the points HE wanted to make.

This technique is called bridging and is completely applicable to the job-seeking interview process.

In bridging, the goal is to lead your answer to one of the 3-5 points you want to make – again these 3-5 points are going to be connected to your relevance to the job.  When you think about it this way, you can see that you are in much more control of the interview and can communicate with a much greater level of confidence and assuredness.

For example:

Q:  Our company is still coming to grips with using social media effectively.  What are the things that you would do broaden our reach using social media and how can we use a blog for our CEO to promote the company?

Wrong Answer:  Without question, you need to be on Twitter, Facebook and also we should create a CEO blog that will help promote your CEO.  I’m familiar with all social media and could really help this company promote itself using social media.

Right Answer:  My experience with social media tells me a couple of things.  Primarily, it requires a serious assessment of the need and as importantly the time, effort, and resources that are required to use social media effectively.  In my last position, we looked at all the tools we were using in our overall marketing efforts and developed a specific campaign that included social media to see how our customers would respond. Through Twitter alone we increased traffic to our point-of-sale website by 22% in the first 3 months.  But the blog we created was more difficult because of the lack of time and commitment from upper management. But the critical issue is this: before committing to using one social media tool over the other and to set realistic expectations about what social media can deliver, its important to test different social media tools.

As you can see, the second answer uses the bridging phrases ‘My experience…tells me a couple of things’ and ‘…the critical issue is this.’  Using these types of bridging phrases immediately sets up an expectation of an authoritative response.  Bridging gives you power – it allows you to use past experiences to demonstrate a point and it highlights your expertise and how it would apply to the job your applying.

Here are several other bridging phrases that can help you:

From my perspective…

I have heard that too, but the real focus should be on….

If I may, let me pick out another point that is equally as important….

Based on a similar project I was involved in, I might describe it differently…

Looking ahead, I believe…

Here’s a related point I’m even more familiar with…

That’s an important point, but here’s my view on the issue…

The question might also be…

Opinions might differ on this point, but here’s my bottom line…

Let’s use another perspective…

Some people might consider this is the most important issue, but my experience tells me that…

Bottom Line
Bridging works.  Remember, don’t always answer the question in the way you think the interviewer WANTS to hear the response, think about how you can get to the answer that is most helpful to demonstrate your 3-5 points you want to make in an interview.

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, college graduate, entry level, Human Resources, Interview Questions, Job advice, Job Boards, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, older job seekers, Social Media Jobs, Uncategorized, Workplace culture

What we wish we knew at graduation…10 pieces of advice to college grads

It’s college graduation season and as a result, there’s a lot of new entry-level job seekers entering the job search market right now.

When I graduated from the University of Colorado in 1989, I saw the President of the University of Colorado at my graduation and walked up to him.  “President Gee,” I said.  “What’s the best piece of advice you can give a new college graduate with a degree in English Literature?”  He looked down at me, smiled and said.  “Never, never, ever forget to pay your alumni dues.”  This deflating piece of advice was exactly what I didn’t want and need to hear.

In any event, without sounding like a cliché graduation commencement lecture, I’ve solicited practical advice from my thousands of friends on Facebook and Twitter.

I asked a simple question:

“If you could offer one piece of advice to a recent college graduate what would it be and what do you know now that you wish you knew when you graduated from college?”

I’ve condensed the hundreds of answers I received into some general themes and transfer this advice in the spirit of mature wisdom in which it is intended.

1.)  Debt is a soul-sucker.

Live within your means and avoid the debt trap like the plague.

Right now, as a recent college graduate, you have amazing ambitions, goals and hopes for the future – don’t let those be derailed because of unnecessary debt.

All too often, I’ve met with professionals who, now in their 40’s and 50’s, are slaves to the debt trap that controls every aspect of their lives: they are in jobs they don’t like, stressful marriages, living paycheck-to-paycheck with no savings for their kid’s college education as well as their own retirement – all because of the enormous debt they began racking up early in life.

There is NO SUCH THING as FREE MONEY! Avoid the temptations of the credit marketing hucksters who are pitching easy money with credit cards offers, department store lines of credit, banks, automobiles – there’s endless ways to get handcuffed to debt for the rest of your life.

Get a credit card to establish credit, but avoid the high interest-rate and pay it off each month.   Finance problems and debt are cited as one of the top reasons for divorce.  If you are getting married, from the get-go, have honest and open conversations about finances and try your best to pay off student loans and any other debt you may have each incurred.  Work with a financial planner early in your marriage so that you can map your goals as a married couple.  Save and invest but avoid the financial slavery of debt.

2.)  Travel while you are in your 20’s.

Save up and visit new countries when you have minimal commitments.   Study abroad, intern overseas, volunteer or consider working for a non-profit or a non-governmental organization (NGO) in another country or get an advanced degree abroad.

Being able to travel not only is fun, but can be a time of self reflection after your hard work in college and give you new insights into your career and life goals.  Your experiences can be a real differentiator in job hunts.   There are plenty of resources available that can lead you to work abroad opportunities and help you be able to travel affordably.

3.)  Be a life-long student.

Just because you have a college degree doesn’t mean you should stop learning.  Be infinitely curious about all things.  Continue to learn and master new skills and open your mind to different cultures, political opinions and new ideas.  You are going into a workforce that requires you to interact with a wide range of ages, work ethics, business atmospheres, personalities and diverse opinions that you may not have experienced before.  At the end of every day, ask the same question your parents asked at the dinner table after school: “What did you learn today?”

4.) Your first job is going to be a learning experience.

Don’t be afraid to start at the very bottom.  Paying your dues means proving yourself – proving that you don’t feel entitled and that no job is below you, proving that you have the heart, the passion and drive to always find a way to get the job done, under any circumstance, proving that you will work long hours and on weekends, and proving that you will always be reliable and true to your word.

5.)  You will fail at something sometime.

John Elway threw way more interceptions than he did touchdowns.   Every successful person is also an expert at failing.  Like them, prepare to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

6.) Be ethical, honest and confident about your integrity.

You will be faced at times during your career when a decision you have to make or a situation you are in will seem to test your character and integrity.   If you are confident in your character and integrity, these situations will never be considered a ‘judgment call.’  You are ethical and honest or you are not.  It is that simple.

7.) Happiness is many things, but it is not about money.

Don’t believe the marketing hype: happiness is NEVER found in how much money you have, how big your house is, what type of car you drive, what type of title or power you hold, the types of clothes you wear or how attractive you (or others) believe yourself to be.

Typically happiness in life is found in deep and meaningful relationships with your family and friends, being satisfied and enjoying your work, enjoying good health, having self confidence and enjoying freedom and independence from financial debt.  Most importantly, it’s found in constantly recognizing and acknowledging the things in your life that present you with joy.

8.) Become an inspirational leader.

We need more leaders in the world.   Volunteer for leadership positions whenever you get the chance.  Try to become a supervisor or a manager.  Join a nonprofit board, or volunteer for a leadership position through a professional industry association.

9.) Be passionate and committed to being the best at everything you do!

Believe in yourself, in your goals and ideas and learn how to manage people and resources wisely and fairly.   Always have a vision for the future, but more than just having a vision, learn how to inspire others to believe and help you to implement and manage your vision.

10.) Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do right now.

Expect that your life will take many twists and turns.

When asked about their current jobs, most seasoned professionals start out by saying, “If you’d have told me when I graduated from college that I’d be doing what I’m doing for a career today, I’d have thought you were crazy!”

The fact is your niche will most likely not be what you expect it to be today.  You will discover skills in your first job out of college that you didn’t realize you possessed.  You will recognize interests that will help you focus on your future goals.  Your will find a career that will fit you – your talents, your personality, your experiences Expect your life’s mission and your professional goals to become more clear over the next few years.

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, college graduate, entry level, Human Resources, Job advice, Job Boards, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, Social Media Jobs, Uncategorized, Workplace culture