Author Archive: tsklep

Landing & Lessons Learned

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

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Public Domain Image

I apologize to my loyal readers for missing a post last week.  That has been rare for me, but I think most will understand my reasons – yesterday I started the highest-paid job I’ve found in 5-1/2 years!  The outpouring of congratulations from family and friends has been heart-warming.  I believe I said it here a long time ago – you’re not in the job search alone if you have a good support network.  (This is for real – no April Fools.)

The new job is obviously now my top priority.  Consequently, I’m not promising to write weekly for the foreseeable future.  Hopefully I can still find time to post occasionally.  In the meantime, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on lessons learned.

1)      You reap what you sow.  The U.S. recently endured the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  I felt that renewing my career depended primarily on the economic recovery.  I did what worked before, relying mostly on recruiters.  I was too passive.  Only since last June did I really pull out all the stops.  Don’t pull back on the throttle thinking “it’s a bad hiring market”.  You want to be first in line whenever more opportunities start showing up.

2)      Job search is constantly changing.  I never used LinkedIn in a job search before.  Job search today is different than it was five years ago.  Five years ago it was different than it was ten years ago.  Seek out people in the know and incorporate the latest thinking and techniques.

3)      My new job search also started yesterday.  Certainly my new colleagues must know I look forward to working with them and doing a good job for my new company.  However, the reality is long-term employment is a rare luxury.  Maintain your networks and perhaps next time you’ll have another job ready when your current one ends.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved.

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Staying Relevant

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

An important task for the long-term unemployed is staying relevant.  If you’re out of work longer than a year you’ll eventually start hearing comments – “can’t get you an interview because of no recent experience”.  This can be extremely frustrating, especially as you get older.  A common initial reaction is incredulity – how can years of experience be dismissed so quickly by some potential employers?

Remember the Hiring Manager’s perspective.  There are usually other candidates without an extended out-of-work period.  All other things being equal, one can hardly blame the Hiring Manager for going with the other candidate.  It’s a harsh reality, but at least somewhat understandable.

Don't become the next Flip Phone.  Public Doman Image.

Don’t become the next Flip Phone. Public Doman Image.

To avoid this problem there are some things you can do to stay relevant.

1)      Write a blog and/or post to your LinkedIn groups.  Obviously that’s one reason I’m writing this blog.  Even if few people read it you can direct a potential employer to your blog to show one way you’re being productive while you are in transition.

2)      Volunteer.  In some fields this is particularly helpful.  It’s possible to gain experience in tasks that will be important in your next paid position.

3)      Read trade literature.  This is essential for technical professionals.  One can even to some degree combine 2 & 3 by volunteering for a technical professional organization, which often has reduced annual fees for members who are in transition.  Volunteering at your professional organization’s local trade shows is also a great way to expand your networking opportunities.

4)      Get a certification or do some other training, including free on-line courses such as Coursera.  Certifications can be costly, so check out WIA grants to defray that.  This is obviously not a concern for free courses, but that does not mean such courses are less worthwhile.  Many have top-notch professors.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

The LinkedIn Revolution

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

I have been reading a book by Orville Pierson called “The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search”.  Chapter Four is particularly enlightening.

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According to Pierson, almost all new hires are found in one of three ways:

1)      The Applicant Pool

2)      The Created Position

3)      Tapping a Known Candidate

Created positions are least common, accounting for only 5% of new jobs.  The Applicant Pool is what many casual job seekers think is the way all jobs are created – by posting a job, soliciting applicants, narrowing the candidates down to a few for interviews, and selecting from among those last few.  While the Applicant Pool draws by far the most attention, it actually accounts for only 25% of new jobs.  Most new jobs – 70% – are given to Known Candidates.  Therefore, the most effective job search focuses on becoming the Known Candidate.  This is why networking is so important.  The more people you know, especially if they are in the field where you want to work, the more job opportunities you will have.

This is also why LinkedIn is not only a powerful networking tool; it’s also revolutionary.  I sometimes wonder if the ability to connect to so many people – currently I have 16,000,000 3rd-degree LinkedIn contacts – will eventually create a backlash, with people tuning out when I reach out to them.

However, I don’t think that will be true to any meaningful degree.  LinkedIn is a tool, and like any tool it is effective if you know how to use it.  LinkedIn helps hiring managers find better candidates, and job-seekers find better opportunities.  My hope is that a similar revolution can occur to help people find more rewarding work throughout their careers.  I think that is also happening as tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strengths Finders gain more widespread exposure.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

More Interview Preparation Tips

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

I find when I am in a job search that my interviews get better as I do more of them.  Part of this is the challenge of technical interviews, which are common among engineers.  I simply respond better to questions about an electronic design I worked on over ten years ago when I’ve been queried to review its details already recently by somebody else.

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Certainly though one can be proactive preparing for interviews.   One friend sent me a list of 100 common interview questions that I keep as reference.  As a member of an outplacement service I can repeatedly take an interview practice workshop.  Recently when waiting at a library for a WIA grant orientation a friend drilled me with some practice interview questions.

Here are some other ways to prepare.  Perhaps most important – research the company!  Larger companies will have websites.  How is the company organized?  Which division and department will be interviewing you?  What are their products?  Hopefully you read trade literature in your industry.  Have any of their products been featured recently?  I noticed this in advance of a phone interview last week.  It can make a good impression to relay that experience and ask questions about the new product.

Have your SSAR stories ready (Situation/Strength/Action/Result).  The most important thing to communicate to a prospective employer is what’s in it for them.  Review the job description and identify your most relevant SSAR stories.  Emphasize details in your stories that reinforce how you are going to deliver successes to the hiring manager and his team.

Finally, review your LinkedIn connections for someone at the company.  You should do this whenever you apply for a job, but do it again – you may have a new second-degree connection.  Reach out to them for information that can help you in the interview.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Cover Letter Tips

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

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What do you say in a cover letter?  I’ve typically identified where I found out about the open position.  Then I’d talk about how my experience matches what the company says they are seeking in the job description – some people even go so far as to list the requirements and matching experience in two columns.  Finally I conclude by asserting my confidence that I would make immediate contributions and that I will contact them soon about an interview.  This type of cover letter is probably familiar to many of you.

This approach has been adequate in the past, but cover letters can be more effective.  The key is to remember that you’re trying to communicate what’s in it for them.  If you’ve done your homework, you know the important tasks in the role you are seeking.  Find at least three SSAR story examples that reinforce your track record of success in these tasks – Situation you were in, Strengths you used to address it, Actions you took, and Results delivered.  Conclude by advising that you have additional stories when you meet.

For this position you are seeking someone who can get these things done.

  I have a record of success in such tasks.  In this situation from my work history I used this strength to take this action and achieve this result.  In a second situation I used this different strength to take this action and achieve this result.  In a third situation I used a third strength to take this action and achieve this result.

  When we meet I can discuss these examples and more in greater detail.  I will contact you soon to arrange an interview.

How much more powerful this is – I know how to do the job well, and will deliver immediate results for your company.  That is a more effective message for a cover letter.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Lessons from the Olympics

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

I have been enjoying the winter Olympics.  Yesterday evening it was great to see U.S. skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White persevere in ice-dancing.  They have a great rivalry with Canadian skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.  Tessa and Scott won gold four years ago in Vancouver, with Meryl and Charlie taking silver.  They traded podium positions in Sochi.

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I’m struck at every Olympics about the consistent narrative.  There’s always an impressive champion, predicted to dominate, who follows through.  There’s always another strong competitor who falls short of promise, and must “settle” for silver or bronze.  There are stories of people whose perseverance is just in being there, who have no realistic chance of medaling.  And of course there’s always an underdog story, the outsider who transcends previous performances and wins to surprise even the experts.

To me, the inspiring common element among most of the athletes is their dedication and perseverance.  A young child is transfixed watching Kristi Yamaguchi, or Eric Heiden, or Shawn White, or one of many other Olympic champions.  15 years later it is that same child now representing the United States!  The innocence of a dream is something to be treasured and remembered.

Certainly it can be tough to deal with a lay-off, and a struggle to get back to work.  Remember what inspired you when you were young, and be confident that while real life is often different than a dream it’s still worth more dedication and perseverance, and many people are still fighting for you.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

A Targeted Resume Strategy

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

Technology is often a double-edged sword.  The Internet enables job-seekers to find more opportunities, but one then often faces much more competition.  Given the constant pressure for all to do more in the workplace, HR professionals can be overwhelmed by huge numbers of resumes.

To ease this workload companies often review resumes with another technology, electronic scanners.  Fortunately, automated processes are often predictable, and there are methods you can apply to improve your chances of getting through this screen.  Here’s one approach.

Get familiar with the website http://www.wordle.net/.  Wordle creates “word clouds” – visual depictions of groups of words dependent on the number of times they appear or some other parameter.  Select the “Create” link from the top-level page of Wordle.  A text-entry box appears.  When applying for a job, copy-and-paste the relevant job description into this text entry box.

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Wordle will create a word cloud you can use to customize your resume.  The most frequent words in the job description will be the largest words in the word cloud.  Carefully consider how to modify your resume appropriately to incorporate these words, remembering that the resume must eventually also read sensibly for human eyes.  As a first step though the more these words are incorporated in your resume, the more likely you can get your resume past the electronic screen.

If you don’t want to customize your resume for every job description, try this instead.  Find a half-dozen or more job descriptions for similar opportunities.  Create a word cloud for each one.  Record the top ten words from each word cloud in a consolidated text document, then create a word cloud from *that* group of words.  This will yield the most useful words for customizing your resume more generally to the types of positions you’re seeking.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Tough Interview Questions

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

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Inevitably, interviewers will introduce a few potholes along the way to challenge you.  It’s good to be prepared for tough questions.

Why do you want to work for our company?

Remember first to always keep things positive!  The company at which you are interviewing may be privately-owned, and you may have had reservations about how decisions at your previous publicly-owned company were influenced by quarterly financial targets, but this is not the time to bring it up.  A better answer is to compare the private ownership of the company to a time when you enjoyed working at a privately-held company in the past.

  Tell me about a situation where your work was criticized.

A good response to this is to identify a learning situation from early in your career, and describe subsequent experience when you applied what you learned to achieve good results.  In this way you turn a tricky question that could cause you to dwell too much on a shortcoming into an opportunity to emphasize a learned strength.

What is your greatest weakness?

If you are unprepared, this can be a particularly troublesome question.  Some people like to say things like “I work so hard that it sometimes compromises life/work balance.”  I think an answer like that is rather transparently contrived.  Instead, I like to answer it by saying that even the greatest jobs have aspects that can be a chore, and I find that most tasks can be reframed in the context of my strengths, giving me the energy to complete it.  For example, I’m a “jack-of-all trades” type of person.  I thrive on variety, but inevitably there are times when I must focus hard on a task.  Fortunately, another one of my strengths is that I am a Learner, and often I find such focused effort to be a learning opportunity.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved.

Mind the Gap

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

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An all-too-common disappointing occurrence in the modern work world is the pink slip.  Even the brightest go-getters are vulnerable to it.

Don’t take it personally.  The harsh reality is that businesses are constantly changing, as well as the economic conditions that influence the decisions of business leaders.  Fortunately, a layoff doesn’t have the stigma it once did.  Still, consider the following tips to minimize its impact.

If you like your field and want to get back into it keep those subscriptions to professional magazines coming.  Use the extra time to read them more thoroughly.  Check out the discussions at LinkedIn groups in your field, too.  This can go a long way toward reassuring potential employers that you’re keeping up with the latest.  This is very important in some fields, such as IT and engineering.  Also, check out prominent blogs and websites in your field

You can also use the extra time to volunteer for an appropriate professional organization.  This again not only shows you’re motivated to stay current; it’s also a great place for networking.  You say you dropped your membership?  Many organizations have reduced fees for members who are in transition.

Consider also how to minimize the impact of past layoffs on your resume and LinkedIn profile.  I recommend indicating work periods using years only.  Including the months can draw attention to a layoff.  Certainly you should be honest and forthcoming if, for example, you’re asked why you left former employers.  However, that’s different than making it clear from the get-go that there is a gap in your work history.

The more you communicate your passion and accomplishments, the less likely a potential employer is to be concerned about or even notice a gap in your work history.  Mind the gap and you’ll be safe.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Keep Your Chin Up

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

Inevitably, even the most determined job seeker must deal with setbacks.  No one ever promised that the job search would be easy.  You may even find the job search to be as difficult a job as you’ve ever had.

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If you’re confronted with a challenging situation, such as failure to secure an opportunity for which you had high hopes, remember that on average you need to talk to 25 hiring managers before landing.  I repeat – on average you’ll talk to 25 hiring managers before landing.  If you’ve had only a handful of interviews so far you should not be surprised that the opportunity failed to pan out.  If you’ve had more than 25 interviews that should not surprise you, either; unfortunately, some get that many to bring the average up.  Stay the course!  It’s much more likely you’re running a marathon than a sprint, especially if it’s a buyer’s market for employers.

Reflect on what you learned.  Did you feel pretty good overall?  You must have been selling yourself well.  What worked for this opportunity, and how can you duplicate the good parts of your effort in your next interview?  Did any of the interview questions surprise you?  Take notes and record a prepared answer for similar questions in the future.  In my experience one gets better at interviewing as one gets more of them.  Send another round of thank-you’s, and don’t be afraid to ask for how you came up short and what you can learn to do better next time for a similar position.

Finally, reward yourself in some small way for the endeavor, and count your blessings.  Remember to keep the big picture in focus.  Keep your chin up and your feet moving forward.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved