Category: On-demand Video Courses


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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The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

“Tell me about a time when…”

UGH! Behavioral interview questions.

No job seeker enjoys answering these questions. Myself included.

They’re just as dreaded as the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I can remember back in grad school doing my first mock interview with the career center on campus. It was very intimidating, even more so than any real interview I’ve ever had.

They recorded it which of course was even more horrifying. And I was really bad at answering the behavioral interview questions.

It was actually this experience and what I learned from it that made me decide to go into career advising.

A year later I was working as an intern in the same career center. Eventually I became the director of a college career center and then started my own career coaching business.

You have more experience than you think

I remember my mock interview like it was yesterday.

A few years ago I found the video and watched the cringe-worthy performance (through my fingers). I’d used the same example for every behavioral question because I thought I didn’t have any other “real” experience to pull from.

After all, I was just a lowly graduate assistant with only one assistantship under my belt.

But now I realize this wasn’t true.

I could’ve pulled from so many other experiences for more variety of answers:  my part-time jobs from college, my work as an orientation leader at my undergrad, my leadership role in my student organization, my class projects. I could’ve even pulled from my work on my passion projects.

The tried-and-true method vs. modern experience

The formula for how to answer behavioral interview questions hasn’t changed much since my grad school days.

But the way people work has, therefore giving job seekers a new way to sell themselves in an interview.

Here’s what I mean. When answering a behavioral interview question, you always want each answer to follow a method similar to the “CAR” method:

  • C:  State the CHALLENGE you faced.
  • A:  Describe the ACTION you took.
  • R:  Indicate the RESULTS of your action.

But unlike what you may have thought in the past, your examples don’t have to all come from traditional job experiences.

Today, people have side-hustles, freelance assignments, passion projects, and greater access to creative pursuits.

These bodies of work may be very different, but they all demonstrate your creativity, project management skills, and problem-solving skills. All things employers seek in potential employees.

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions perfectly is to gather relevant examples from ALL your sources of experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer, stuff done for fun, etc.).

Then, tell a single interesting story for each question that connects the dots for your listener.

Show how your “soft skills” used on your own projects will benefit the company on their projects. Hard data (quantifiable results) and testimonials (qualitative results) will drive home your points, so always include them in each answer.

Also, anticipate further questions. When practicing your examples, listen for holes in your information triggering a need for clarification or more details.

A friend or a career coach is more likely to help you recognize those holes, so get assistance.

By addressing those areas right away, the interviewer won’t have to keep probing. You’ll be a hero because you made their job easier by providing all the important info without being asked or reminded to.

The best way to prepare

There’s no way to prepare for every commonly asked behavioral interview question. There are just too many.

The only way to really predict which ones you’ll get is to look on Glassdoor to see if there are any interview questions listed for your particular job opening. However there’s no guarantee they’ll ask the same questions this time around.

Instead, the best use of your time and energy is to look at the list of required skills in the job ad, and come up with a different story for when you’ve previously performed each skill. This is more manageable since this list is finite.

Always choose stories that show your success in performing the skill.

By focusing on the list of skills, you’ll have enough examples to use as answers for the unexpected questions. Most importantly, you’ll be able to connect those dots from your past experience to your future experience.

Don’t forget to use the CAR method when drafting your stories. Doing so keeps your stories organized with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pulling from ALL your experience is a great strategy for someone who has a lengthy gap in their employment history.

It’s also a good approach for recent grads with little to no professional experience. Click here to see how this has worked successfully for Tanner Christensen who landed a job as a product developer at Facebook with very little experience.

For more job interview tips, sign up for the on-demand program, Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. You’ll learn how to answer other commonly asked interview questions, questions you should be asking, and more, resulting in more job offers!

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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 gives 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 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:

stop overthinking networking

How to Know When It’s Time to Get Career Help

My freshman year of college I found myself struggling in my college algebra class. In fact, my entire class was struggling.

That’s because our professor always let us out of class 20 minutes early and never assigned us any homework. At first we all thought this was great! What college freshman wouldn’t?

But when it came time for final exams, it wasn’t so great. None of us were prepared for the common final.

I was falling behind in my understanding of the material due to the professor’s teaching methods. But it was also my fault because I didn’t demand he spend more time going over sample problems.

And I didn’t seek tutoring, at least not right away.

I was embarrassed to get tutoring and put it off until it was almost too late.

Once I got help, I realized there was no way I could expect a tutor to teach me 12-15 weeks worth of college algebra in just three sessions to prepare me for the final.

I also couldn’t expect to crash study and do well on the exam.

By some miracle, the common final wasn’t as challenging as expected, and I squeaked by with a passing grade. But my GPA that semester was the lowest of my entire college career.

When I later became a college career adviser and professor, I noticed two different groups of students who took advantage of tutoring services.

  • The students who waited until right before an exam to seek tutoring.
  • The ones who attended tutoring sessions all semester in preparation for the big day of finals.

One group consisted of A students. The other consisted of D and F students. (You rarely saw any B or C students getting tutored.) Can you guess which group was the A students?

You Can’t Afford Not to Seek Career Help

I was reminded of this scenario in a recent conversation with a new client. She commented on how much she’s learning from our career coaching sessions. And how it’s something she should’ve done a long time ago.

Now she sees the mistakes she’s been making in networking and interviewing. She concludes this is what’s cost her some important potential connections and even some job offers.

She also commented on how much time it takes to learn and apply what we’ve been covering.

In other words, it’s not something you can wait to do until right before a job interview. Or right before you have to send off a resume.

Yet, I have so many people who wait to contact me after they see a job posted or have an interview scheduled.

In the case where they see a job posted, usually by the time they do all the things necessary to get their resume up to par, the posting has already closed.

You can’t write a resume in an hour, a day, or even a week. It requires numerous revisions which take time.

Once you have an interview scheduled, you shouldn’t spend your time learning how to prepare for an interview. You should already know how so you can spend your time applying what you’ve learned.

It’s too overwhelming to try to learn so much information in a short amount of time, while trying to also do your research on the company, prepare for your questions, and shop for something to wear.

Don’t Risk Making Bad Career Decisions

All of this is especially true for those of you who are feeling a desperate need to leave a bad job situation.

So many people come to me after they’ve reached their breaking point in their job or their business. They’re so ready for a much-needed change.

But it’s at this point they run the risk of making bad career decisions, even with the help of a career coach. It’s because they’re making these decisions while emotional and before putting a strategic plan in place.

I know people who were on the fence as to whether they should invest in career coaching or not. Then they were forced to make a decision because they got a call for a job interview the next day and now needed to know how to improve their interview skills. While I could give them some tips, I couldn’t cram all the info I had to share in one session.

They’re no different than me when I finally sought tutoring. But unlike my final exam, the grade for an interview is always pass/fail, and only one candidate passes.

You Can’t Just Wing It!

Interviewing is a skill you should already have in your back pocket. You should be so schooled in it you’ll be ready for a job interview at a moment’s notice.

And don’t think you can just go in and wing it. This approach may have worked for you in your high school jobs or entry-level jobs you’ve gotten in the past. But the further along you are in your career, the more is going to be expected of you in an interview.

It’s never too early to learn how to interview well. The skill comes in handy not just for sporadic interviews but also for impromptu performance reviews, promotion opportunities, salary negotiations, etc.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Perfecting Your Job Search Skills

While it may not always be the right time to leave a desperate situation, it’s always the right time to prepare for your exit. Knowing how to update your resume and interview well are the first steps in doing so. Being armed with this knowledge will help you get out of a bad job sooner than later.

When you do have to pull the trigger, make sure you always aim before firing.

Some signs it’s time to get career help before it’s too late include:

  • You’re already entertaining the idea of leaving your current job for something else.
  • You’re experiencing the beginning of physical illness due to a stressful or toxic work environment.
  • It just became clear there’s no longer room for you to grow or advance.
  • You can’t picture yourself in the same job or same company in the next 1-3 years.
  • Rumors about a downsize are circulating at your company.

You don’t wait until you’re in a car accident to buy auto insurance. And you don’t wait until you’re dead to see a doctor. So why would you wait until your career is collapsing to consult a career coach?

You can get career help today!

If you know your resume or interview skills are way too rusty and you need to be ready if you got a call requesting your resume or an interview tomorrow, you can start improving your skills today with paNASH’s on-demand courses.

These courses include:

They’re available 24/7 for you to work at your own pace.

You can also get one-on-one career help now instead of waiting until the last minute. Complete the paNASH intake form to get started.

There’s no need to feel embarrassed about any past career mistakes or interview failures. Instead, you can focus on learning how to not just improve your job search skills, but also land better job offers and negotiate a better salary.

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