Category: Career Etiquette


Are Career Fairs Worth Your Time and Energy?

I’m not sure why career fairs still exist. Many are so ineffective for both candidates and recruiters. Yet companies continue to pour more money into them and candidates continue to pour more time into them.

Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on registration fees, travel, fancy displays, swag, and more to participate in career fairs. Often recruiters end up disappointed in the talent pool. Especially if they don’t stick around for the duration of the fair. (And from my past experience in hosting career fairs at the colleges I used to work at, many recruiters either showed up late or left early – or both!)

Job seekers spend hours putting together a resume that doesn’t allow them to target one specific job or company. They also spend their energy trying to perfect an elevator pitch that doesn’t really work. They typically walk away with a bag full of chintzy promo items and no real opportunities of interest.

Time Better Spent

The type of career fairs worth your time

Since career fairs do still exist, there are some it makes sense for job seekers to attend. This is only true however when you choose to attend those as specific in nature as possible.

This can include a career fair hosted just for a certain industry or just for certain job functions. Like a fair just for coding jobs or companies seeking coders.

It can also include fairs hosted just by one particular company for all their open positions. If there’s a specific company you’re interested in working for or getting your foot in the door with, it makes sense for you to spend your time attending their own career fair.

If you’re interested in a particular role, then it makes sense to attend fairs focused on recruiting for this role.

It’s not worth your energy to attend large, massive, “open-call” fairs which are general in nature. You know these type of fairs. They’re usually announced on the 6:00 news and held at your local NFL stadium or other large venue. They’re like cattle calls for any and all recruiters and candidates. It’s very hard to stand out from a crowd so large.

Also, if you’re an experienced candidate looking for mid-level professional positions, you’re likely to only find entry-level or non-professional positions available at these larger fairs.

How to make career fairs worth your time

If you do hear about a career fair that sounds like it could be worth your time, there are some things you need to do on your part to get the most out of it.

First, you want to find out exactly what companies will be in attendance or what specific roles recruiters are looking to fill. This is usually easy to find. The event’s web site typically lists who’s attending and what they’re hiring for.

You then want to use this information to be strategic in your attendance. Rank which booths are most important to you to visit and determine what order you should visit those booths. If you know you become less nervous and communicate better after taking some time to talk to others, save your preferred booths until later so you’ve had a chance to loosen up.

When you discover on the event’s site a specific job you really want, create a resume tailored to the job using some of the same language and keywords found in the job description. If you’re interested in multiple positions with a particular company, tailor your resume to the company using some of the same keywords found in their mission statement and core values. This will require you to do a deep-dive of the company’s web site and job listings.

Make sure you keep your targeted resumes separated from any general resumes you bring with you. You want to ensure you’re handing out the right one to the right people.

It’s always a good idea to have some general resumes on hand even if you plan to only visit the booths you’re interested in. You never know when a recruiter from a company you hadn’t previously considered wants to talk to you. And you might become interested in their opportunities. How bad would it look if they asked for your resume and you didn’t have one to hand them?

Finally, you want to stand out from your competition. You do this by talking less about yourself, and listening more to the company and their needs. One of the best questions you can ask a recruiter at a career fair is,

“What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had in finding the talent you’re seeking?”

This question makes you stand out because it speaks to a recruiter’s pain point and shows you’re empathetic to their side of the issue.

It also helps you gather the information you need to know how you might be able to help solve their problem. Use their answer to determine which of your skills you should emphasize in future interviews. Use it also to determine what areas you need to improve upon between now and your future interviews.

Replace the lame, over-done elevator pitch with this question and you’ll be a breath of fresh air to tired and frustrated recruiters.

Better alternatives to career fairs

If you still find career fairs to be a waste of your time, there are other (and usually better) alternatives.

Many companies host or sponsor local events like panels or talks on industry-related topics. These events are typically open to anyone with an interest in those topics. When you attend such events you not only increase your knowledge of the industry, you also get to be in the same room with company representatives.

These are the people you should make a point to introduce yourself to. Let them know how valuable the event was for you and thank them for making it happen. Then from this introduction, nurture and foster the relationship like you would any other networking relationship.

I remember attending a panel on a topic I was interested in learning more about. I had no idea who was sponsoring it until I got there. After the panel was over, I found myself in a conversation with the VP of the company sponsoring the event. A month later, he hired me to do some contract work for his company.

You never know what can happen at these events! Even if you don’t make a connection, you at least learn something while there instead of walking away with nothing to show for your time.

And if you do make a connection that leads to a job interview, you’ll stand out by being able to say you were at the event. This will show your genuine interest in the industry and in growing your knowledge.

Other alternatives to career fairs can include company open-houses, job shadowing opportunities, informational interviews, and more. To find such opportunities, sometimes you have to dig through Eventbrite’s calendar or a company’s press releases or Twitter announcements. Sometimes all you have to do is simply ask.

Companies would fare better in finding great talent by hosting more events like these. They will attract the kind of talent that’s serious about their company and their company’s core values. And it will be a better return on their investment of time and money.

Maybe by you simply asking a company if they have any such events will give them the idea to do more of them!

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How to Avoid Stereotypes That Hurt Your Child’s Career

Millennials and Gen Z’ers sometimes get a bad rap for not having the ability to appropriately handle unpleasant obstacles.

But there’s one millennial who is defying all the stereotypes. Her name is Kristen Hadeed. She’s the owner of a successful business she started while in college which now employees over 600 people. She’s also the author of the book Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong.

Failing Successfully

I recently got to hear Kristen speak about how her business’s success was built on failure. In her talk, she credits her parents for her ability to fail successfully.

What she means by this is she was raised in a home where her parents believed tough love is sometimes necessary for success.

One particular example she shared is when in high school she went to her father for help with her calculus homework. He said,

“I can’t help you. Do you know why? I can’t be there when you’re taking your test. If you can’t answer the question now, how are you going to be able to answer it during the test? You need to figure out where you’re stuck and go ask your teacher about it.”

She said she hated him for it, but still felt loved by him. She followed his advice and ended up with the highest grade in her calculus class.

It was this tough love lesson that taught Kristen how to solve her own problems and grow as a person and businesswoman.

As a result, she uses this same tough love approach to successfully lead her employees who 90% are college students. This approach instills confidence in her employees even when they screw up royally, and give them ownership over their successes.

Do you fit the “lawnmower parent” stereotypes?

Not only does Kristen defy the stereotypes of millennials. Her parents defy the stereotypes of parents of millennials.

Instead of being “lawnmower parents” who mow down every obstacle their child might face, they allowed her opportunities to learn how to deal with obstacles and failure.

They didn’t “over-help” her, as she says.

But she sees the negative effects of over-helpful parenting in many of the college students who work for her.

She sees their lack of confidence and lack of belief in their own skills.

My colleagues and I see it too in the younger generations we work with. And this is often the cause of their bad rap.

My colleagues and I see firsthand how so many “lawnmower parents” are plowing their way through their child’s career.

Specifically, I experience parents of people as old as 30 calling me wanting to sign their son or daughter up for my career coaching services because their “child” isn’t happy in their current job. (Sometimes they call me without their son or daughter knowing it!)

A colleague of mine who’s on the other side of the table in HR and recruiting experiences it too. She witnesses parents who try to involve themselves in their “child’s” interview process or negotiate salary for their “children.”

(I use quotes around “child” and “children” because these are actually adults I’m referring to.)

My tough love for you

I’m all for helping people who aren’t happy in their current job find something better. That’s what I do!

BUT, I won’t take on a client who cannot take the initiative to contact me directly.

And my colleague says she will never hire a candidate whose parents get involved in the interview process.

So if this is something you as a parent are doing, stop it now before you further hurt your adult child’s chances of landing a job.

If you’re the “child” whose parents are doing this, don’t allow it! Your career is at stake!

This is my tough love to those who are or have lawnmower parents!

It’s not my business who’s paying for it

Now some parents will say to me, “Well I’m calling for my son because I’m the one who’ll be paying for your services!”

It’s not my business who’s paying for it. But it is my business who I’ll be working with. And I need to talk to them. Not their parents.

I have a client who’s still a college student. I can’t say for sure if she got the money for the career coaching services from her parents or not because her parents stayed out of the situation. She took the initiative to reach out to me on her own. She knew her goals and knew what she wanted to accomplish with the coaching.

This is why she’s now my client. These are the type of clients I want to work with. It has nothing to do with their age and everything to do with their initiative.

If a client can’t take the initiative to contact me directly and complete my simple intake form on their own, they’ll never be able to do the homework required in my coaching program.

There have been a couple of cases where I have taken a client whose parents called me, only because I knew the parents personally. And even then I regretted it.

Their children were the clients who either had a bad attitude throughout the coaching process, or they didn’t use all the sessions their parents had paid for. To me this is a waste of their parents’ money, and I never want anyone to feel like they’ve wasted their money with me.

Another way “lawnmower parenting” can hurt your child’s career

I have a millennial client right now who’s great! Her father has stayed out of her career coaching process.

However, she tells me he occasionally involves himself in her networking efforts without her permission.

And he does so in the wrong ways. He does all the things I teach her NOT to do, therefore undoing much of what she and I have already worked on.

How to help your son or daughter the right way

I understand parents want to help their children make connections that can lead to good jobs. And job seekers should begin their networking efforts with who they know, including their parents.

But, if you’re a parent wanting to help in this way, I suggest first brushing up on your own networking skills with my on-demand networking course and reading my free blog posts on networking etiquette.

Don’t assume you already know everything about networking. Especially if it’s been a while since the last time you’ve had to look for a job. Even my adult clients who happen to have millennial children first come to me not knowing how to network in today’s job market.

Next, I suggest not to put pressure on your contacts when making introductions. Never make them feel obligated to talk to your son or daughter. No one likes to be on the receiving end of being put on the spot.

Instead, ask if they’re willing and if their schedule allows to talk with your son or daughter.

If they say no, thank them and maybe ask if they know of anyone else they feel comfortable recommending to talk to your son or daughter.

If they say yes, give your son or daughter their contact info and leave it up to your child to reach out to your contact.

Then, you can help your child from behind the scenes. Like helping him or her think of appropriate questions to ask your contact. And how to respect your contact’s time. Teach them this type of etiquette they can apply throughout their careers.

But do not make the arrangements for your son or daughter. Do not speak for them. By all means never attend the meeting with them. And do not nag them about whether or not they made the call. Give them ownership over their choices by letting it be their choice to call your contact or not.

Instead of being known as a “lawnmower parent” who mows down your child’s obstacles, defy the stereotypes and be the parent who builds up opportunities for your son and daughter to learn how to take initiative and ownership over their career.

I guarantee this will make them more successful than you can imagine!

“Take the bubble wrap off and let them walk into their mistakes.” Kristen Hadeed

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Why You Need to Stop Overthinking Networking

Networking is necessary not just for a successful job search, but also for a successful career as a whole.

In fact it’s so important you should spend 80% of your job search networking and only 20% applying to online job postings.

This is because 80% of the working population found their current job through networking. Therefore it makes sense to spend the same amount of time on the most effective job search method there is.

But unfortunately, most people have it backwards and only spend 20% (if that) of their job search networking.

Based on the suggestion above, you may need to re-adjust how you currently invest your time in your job search.

But, this doesn’t mean you should overthink your networking efforts.

Stop Overthinking Networking

When I’m coaching my clients on various aspects of the job search, I’ll often get questions about how to write something on a resume or how to respond to a specific job interview question. When I answer those questions, the client usually doesn’t have to ask the same question again.

But when it comes to the topic of networking, I’ll get a question from a client on how to find contacts or how to reach out to them. When I answer those questions, the same client will often ask the same question again, sometimes in a different way.

When this happens, I can tell they’re way overthinking things. They’re doing so either because they think it should be more complicated than it actually is, or they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. Sometimes it’s both. Usually it’s the latter.

One of the most common examples of “overthinking it” is the question, “What if I reach out to that person and I don’t hear back from them?”

You know what? You may not hear back from them. Is this a reflection on you as a person? NO! It’s more of a reflection on the contact. That is assuming nothing simple happened like your voicemail getting accidentally deleted or your email ending up in their spam folder.

And you may not hear back from them now, but perhaps later.

I remember emailing someone and not hearing back from him until THREE YEARS LATER! When he finally did reply, my original message was included in his reply. I looked back at my first message and saw a few things things I would’ve done differently in my approach.

But he was kind and said he always held on to emails like mine in case he was ever looking to hire someone with my skills. And so he did hire me to work with one of his clients. It turned out his timing was better than my timing.

So you may not hear back when you’d like, or you may not hear back at all.

But there’s one thing I can guarantee. You’ll never hear back from the person you don’t reach out to.

Are you really okay with wondering “What if?” the rest of your career?

Are you okay with missing out on a potentially great contact just because of fear of no response?

Because remember, no response doesn’t always equal rejection. It could just mean bad timing. Which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up one or two times again. (Follow-up is another area I see clients overthinking.)

Instead Be Strategic (and Reasonable)!

When I say “Stop overthinking networking,” understand I’m not giving you license to not be strategic in your networking.

It’s important to know your reason for networking, who it makes the most sense to reach out to, how to explain to them why you’re reaching out to them, and how you can be an asset to them as well.

Therefore, you must also be reasonable.

Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t expect someone to offer you a job right off the bat. You need to take the time to build and nurture the relationship first before you can expect any immediate tangible results.

Occasionally you might see some immediate results, but usually it takes persistence and consistency. This is why you need to spend 80% of your job search networking. It takes time!

Also, be reasonable in your requests. Don’t expect someone to drop everything to connect with you or to spend all their time talking with you. Don’t expect them to cater to your needs when you’re the one asking for their help or expertise.

Instead, do everything you can to make networking and connecting with you as easy and pleasurable as possible. This may mean driving out of your way to their offices for an informational interview instead of meeting at a location more convenient to you. It may mean getting up extra early to meet with them at 6:30 in the morning before their busy schedule begins.

Networking Resources

I could write a book about networking and the ins and outs of networking etiquette (and someday soon I might!). I’ve already written several other posts about networking, including the best way to write an elevator pitch (yet another thing people overthink!).

But what I want to emphasize in this post is to stop overthinking networking by not letting fear take over. Don’t let fear, whether it’s fear of rejection or fear of failure, get in the way of making a meaningful connection that can have a long-term positive impact on your career.

Always be fearless, reasonable, and respectful.

For more posts and resources on the topic of networking, check out the following:

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How to Write a Resume: Make it About THEM, Not You

Below is an answer I provided to a Quora question that has nearly 200,000 views so far.

Shock is the reaction I usually get when I say what I’m about to say. Your resume is not about you. Thinking it is, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on your resume. Here’s what I mean:

A few weeks ago, I was working with two different people to help them polish up their resumes. One was a client seeking a pay raise and promotion.

The other was one looking for a new job following a layoff.

Resumes for both clients had the same common mistake: they were void of any results or accomplishments from their past jobs or positions.

This is a HUGE mistake because it’s the one thing people reviewing resumes are looking for the most!


When I first suggested to each client we add in some results of their past work so their resume doesn’t read like a generic job ad, one said, “I was just there to do a good job, I wasn’t seeking any kind of glory.”

While this is a noble approach to good work, job seekers have to understand that including accomplishments on their resume is not about them.

The moment you say, “I don’t want/like to brag,” is the moment you’ve made it all about you.


Resume Truth Bomb: It’s About Them!

Including results of your past work on your resume and talking about those results in an interview or a performance review IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

It’s about what you can do for the company’s bottom line, which is all the hiring manager really cares about (typically and mostly).

Your resume should always speak to your audience’s pain points by showing how you can solve their problem.

The way you show this is including the results and accomplishments you’ve had when solving similar problems in your previous jobs.

The reader knows past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

They’ll want to learn more about you if you can show how you’ve excelled in the past in problem solving.

But you have to speak their language.

And you must connect the dots between your past experience and your audience’s current needs.


How to Make It All About Them

In order to do this, you must know something about your reader.

This is why you must research the company you’re applying to.

This is also why you can’t rely on one blanket resume for each job.

It’s important to really analyze the job ad to figure out what the company needs from the new person in the role.

Start by looking at what are the top 3–5 skills listed in the requirements for the job.

Can you think of a specific time when you’ve demonstrated each skill? What was the result? Can you quantify the result? How did it impact the company’s bottom line?

  • Did it increase profit or revenue? By how much?
  • Did it decrease spending? By what percentage?
  • Did it save man hours? How does this translate to dollars saved?
  • Did it increase customer satisfaction or decrease customer complaints? By what percentage?
  • Did it make processes more efficient? How much time did this save?
  • Did it boost staff morale? How much did productivity increase with this boost?

By showing the byproducts of your good work, the hiring manager can infer that you can and will produce similar results for them.

Not sharing those results will leave the manager wondering if you’ll be a productive and valuable addition to the payroll.

Don’t keep your reader guessing!


The Result of Including Results on Your Resume

Defining your results and being able to articulate them tactfully is one of the biggest challenges of a job search or promotion negotiation, but there is help.

I work in depth with my clients on how to properly word their results and accomplishments for both their resumes and their responses to interview questions.

By doing this, my clients gain a better understanding of their skillset and greater confidence in their net worth, resulting in successful salary negotiations, higher salary offers, and better promotions.

Are you looking to get hired, earn more, or advance in your career?

If so, now’s the time to learn how to do it with a little paNASH! Click here to get started.


How to Avoid Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Career

There are many wrong moves you can make in your career. We’ve all fallen on our faces a few times, especially during the learning curve of a new job. But some mistakes are worse than others.

Today I’m focusing on some of the common mistakes that can ruin your career and how you can avoid them. I won’t include the obvious ones like doing something illegal. Everyone should already know not to do anything illegal!

6 Common Mistakes That Can Cause Career Ruin

1. Agreeing to a superior’s order to do something unethical.

It’s obvious to most people not to do anything illegal in their career. But it may not be so obvious to others they shouldn’t do anything unethical. Even if it’s an order from your supervisor.

If your supervisor has no problem making such a request, he or she probably has no problem throwing you under the bus when the unethical act is discovered. And it will eventually be discovered. Everything comes to light sooner or later.

If ever faced with an order to do something unethical, explain your discomfort and document the conversation. If your boss tries to push the matter or threatens to fire you, start looking for a new job ASAP! You do not want to continue working for someone like this.

If you get fired for refusing the order, you should be able to collect unemployment until you find something new. And depending on the circumstances, you may have a legal case worth pursuing.

2. Relying on just one source of income.

Since anything can happen in your career where a scenario like the one described above could leave you suddenly without a job, you should never rely on just one source of income.

As I’ve written before, there’s no such thing as job security in any company. So start NOW pursuing a side hustle or passion project for a little extra money or start making smart investments. This will help tide you over if you find yourself between jobs or decide to start your own business.

3. Accepting a counter-offer from your current employer.

One of my co-workers at a university where I used to do career advising started looking for a new job at a different university. When he had a potential offer from another place, he casually mentioned to me he might tell our supervisor to see if she’d counter-offer with more money to get him to stay.

I looked him dead in the eyes and told him “Do NOT do it!” He looked a little confused when he asked me “Why not?”

I told him taking a counter-offer can be career suicide. My answer is the same to you if you’re considering accepting a counter-offer.

There’s a reason (or reasons, plural) why you went looking for work elsewhere in the first place. It’s likely those reasons won’t change if you stay for more money. And while the additional money may seem great at first, it won’t outweigh the distrust and resentment which will grow between you and your supervisor or co-workers after cutting this type of deal.

When you do finally leave your employer (and you will), word will get around to other potential employers how you manipulated the situation. This will make you the kind of candidate they won’t want to hire.

4. Overstaying at an unhealthy job.

If your job is affecting your mental or even your physical health, it’s time to go. No job is worth your sanity or your health.

If you overstay at a job like this, you could become so unhealthy you run the risk of not being able to work at all, and therefore losing your income anyway.

Do what it takes to find something new using the resources available on this blog and on paNASH’s on-demand video courses.

5. Agreeing to take on extra work without extra pay for an indefinite amount of time.

There may be times when your company is short-staffed and you have to pick up the slack. When it’s necessary to take on extra work for the best interest of the entire company, you should do so.

However, this should only be temporary. And before agreeing to this, ask what the set end date will be for the extra workload. If you’re told, “until things settle down,” don’t accept this as an answer.

Instead, indicate the length of time you’re willing to do the extra work and schedule a meeting as soon as possible to discuss how you’ll be compensated for any extra work done beyond the specified date.

For instance, you’d say, “I’m happy to cover Sallly’s projects until the end of May. You and I can meet next week to decide how to move forward in June.”

Whatever agreement you come to, get it in writing.

If you’re still doing Sally’s work in June, you need a title change and pay adjustment, or at least a bonus.

6. Promising your employer you won’t job hunt.

Unless there’s a formal agreement in place or you’re receiving tuition reimbursement, never promise not to job hunt or to stay with your company for any specific length of time.

If your boss begs you to stay in a time of high turn-over or a rough patch, ask her for an employment agreement giving you the same assurance she’s asking of you. If she won’t or can’t, don’t allow better opportunities to pass you by.

These are just a handful of mistakes that can ruin your career, but equipped with the knowledge above you’ll be able to maneuver these landmines so you can move successfully through your chosen career path unscathed. Consider it career self-defense!

Click here for more career advice.

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