Articles

“Your resume has 10 seconds to land you a position.” By Katy Piotrowski
Reprinted from The Coloradoan, August 2014.

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, a hiring manager may have skimmed your resume or LinkedIn profile and rejected you as a candidate.

Ten seconds is about how long a screener typically takes to scan key pieces of data about you and decide if you’re worth learning more about.

This surprises many career-minded professionals. How can someone learn enough about me in 10 seconds to make that kind of decision? Don’t they want to know more about my experience?

In short, no, they don’t.

What decision-makers want is a solution to their problem, and if your professional summary is too cumbersome to navigate easily, it becomes just another hassle to abandon. The goal is to present yourself well and quickly, and here are some tips:

• State the position you want to land in the top 25 percent of your document. Write the title for the job in the uppermost section of your resume, or in the line beneath your name in your LinkedIn profile, as in “Quality Assurance Manager”.
• As much as possible, remove irrelevant details about your background. Hiring managers don’t need or want to know about every responsibility you’ve held in each job. Cull out details that detract from the information you want them to notice.
• Consider hiring a professional to hone your document. How your information is formatted is as important as the details you choose to share, and a polished layout can help showcase your best strengths.

Then, put your resume or LinkedIn profile to the test. Ask someone who doesn’t know you well to skim and call out what they see in your document in the first 10 seconds. If they don’t notice your position focus and one or two relevant positions or accomplishments right away, you still have some work to do.

"Find your balance for a healthy job search." by Katy Piotrowski
An excerpt taken from her column in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Sunday April 26, 2009

Transition from one job to the next can throw most of us out of whack.

Take Rick, for example. After 14 years with one company, he was laid off. He spent the next few weeks immersed in job search activities, worrying every day about landing his next position. But his intense efforts didn’t seem to be helping. Instead, he found himself getting more irritable and making less and less progress.

According to Leslie Dwyer, a Fort Collins psychotherapist, it’s easy for job hunters to find themselves out of balance when in the midst of a job hunt. Because our work is so closely tied to our identities, we feel lost and without purpose when our 9-to-5 routine goes away.

But to move successfully into the next career opportunity, it’s essential to restore equilibrium. Dwyer recommends these steps for finding balance again:

• Create a shell of protection: You’re particularly vulnerable when job hunting. Surround yourself with things and people who make you feel comforted and cared for, such as close friends and family, and activities or environments that soothe and refresh you.
• Stay physical. Keep moving and get outside every day. This helps to dispel feelings of isolation and puts the challenges of life in better perspective.
• Develop a routine. An established schedule can set you up for a more balanced and productive day. In addition to job search tasks, build in exercise, connecting with others and time for activities that feed your energy, such as hobbies.

What happened to Rick? After a particularly frustrating day, he scheduled an appointment with his doctor and a therapist. Within a week, he’d implemented changes in his daily routine, including reading, cycling and spending quality time with his family. He discovered that he had more energy and was more productive in his job search and landed an even better position within a month.

"A Mentor can help revamp your job." by Katy Piotrowski
First appeared in the Fort Collins Coloradoan 2005.

So you're looking to do something different in your career this year. Good for you! Except that it creates one really big challenge: Doing something new requires you to change your behavior, and for most people, that can be tough.

One of the best methods for making behavior changes is to follow in the footsteps of someone who succeeded before you.

If the idea of making career progress under the guidance of an accomplished mentor appeals to you, be on the lookout for an adviser with these qualities:

• Find someone who is valued as a genuine leader in your community. A key consideration here is authenticity, meaning that the person has truly experienced some struggles and would be able to provide you direction from a first-hand perspective.
• Seek out an individual who has accomplished something outstanding. A person who has pulled off something exceptional in his or her life most likely has lived through a variety of situations. That depth of experience can benefit you because the challenges you're sure to run into most likely will be ground that your guide already has covered.
• Look for a mentor ready and willing to pass on his or her wisdom. Typically, you can sense a person's openness after a few in-depth conversations. Does he easily share stories about his experiences? Does what he describes seem relevant to what you hope to learn?

When you hit on a promising candidate, do some research into the kind of relationship you'd like to propose and develop. Books, articles and the Internet offer extensive information about how to create and maintain successful mentor / protégé affiliations. And then look forward to having some expert guidance as you make meaningful changes in your behavior and career activities this year.

"Relating parallel experiences can help sell your skills" by Katy Piotrowski
Reprinted from The Coloradoan, Sunday, August 3, 2003.

It's a situation most people dread: You're talking with a boss, potential employer, or customer, and they say, "We're looking for someone to do X. Do you have any experience in that area?" And you don't. In today's presto-change-o world of work, in-demand skill sets seem to shift as fast as Colorado weather.

"Must be able to operate ABC Computer Systems. Be familiar with 123 Service Processes. Have experience with WhizBang Business Operations," the classified ads read.

And while you may not know much about ABC, 123, or WhizBang, you're sure you could be successful if only they would give you a chance.

How do you boost the probability of being given that chance? Come up with a list of Parallel Experiences, and you'll be well on your way. Here's how:

• In advance of the interview, conversation, or meeting, think through possible weakness areas. For instance, you may be questioned about operating a specific software program that you've never used. Make a list of as many possible weakness areas as you can anticipate.
• For each weakness area, ask yourself, "When have I been involved in something similar?" Think about related projects, training, or other examples. These ideas can be used as Parallel Experience answers. For example, if you've had to learn other software programs in the past, make some notes about what you had to do to succeed with that situation. Spend some time brainstorming a number of parallel experiences related to each weakness area you've identified.
• Practice your parallel experience responses: When asked, "Do you have experience with X?" lead with: "The experience I possess is in the area of ..." For example: Provide enough information to build the confidence of the decision maker. Include step-by-step details covering what you did, how you did it, and the result. End your answer with a statement such as, "I'm sure I can use these same skills to be successful in X, as well."
• If at all possible, avoid saying, "I don't have experience in that area, but ..." Opening with a negative often shuts down the listener. Parallel experiences can give you the chance to open new doors, by turning old examples into better possibilities for the future."

"Balancing life at work, home a plus in employers' eyes" by Katy Piotrowski
Reprinted with permission from The Coloradoan, Sunday, March 9, 2003.

When business is down--as it has been for many companies lately--employees begin to wonder, 'If the boss had to cut back on workers, would she keep me, or the guy in the next office?'

According to human resources consultant Richard Fagerlin of Peak Solutions in Fort Collins, thousands of employers were asked the question, 'If you had to choose between two employees, both equally skilled at their specialty, whom would you keep, and why?' These were their answers, in order of priority:

1. An employee with a positive attitude toward customers, colleagues, and co-workers. Your workmate's sunny disposition might be a little hard to take first thing in the morning, but decision makers value this quality over all others.
2. Someone who takes responsibility for his impact on the organization. If you're clear about how your role benefits the bottom line, and work diligently toward further improving your impact, your boss will want to keep you around.
3. A person who successfully balances work and personal priorities. Contrary to popular belief, workaholics aren't necessarily more attractive. In fact, bosses have learned that an employee who can maintain balance at home and on the job is a better investment as a long-term contributor.
4. Somebody who manages change well, and even initiates it. Employers notice and want to keep workers who are willing to try new ideas and flex with change. Sticking with the status quo can lead to failure for a business, as well as a pink slip for an employee.
5. A worker with strong communication skills. Whether it's written, verbal, one-on-one, in groups, or via satellite, an employee who is capable of effectively communicating key concepts is a keeper.
6. A team member who works smarter, not harder. Increased productivity, through more efficient use of time and resources, is a quality that decision makers encourage and want to retain.
7. Finally, someone who seeks out leadership opportunities regardless of their title or position. You don't need to head the department to head up an improvement project. And the people in charge reward this behavior by hanging on to those who can lead."