Making your life experience pay off

Recently, I have worked with some amazing job seekers by providing them with a free career counseling session, resume edits and cover letters. One question that came up a few times was how to handle career gaps.

I want to thank each of the job seekers for opportunity to travel their career seeking journey with them. It’s been such a pleasure working with them that I would like to offer two more FREE  sessions during the month of June! What’s that about? Click here to check out the details.

OK, so how to deal with career gaps? First, define the reason. Basically there are two types of career gaps:

  • Intentional gap? Did you intentionally take time off work to care for a loved one, start a business, go to school, illness, travel, volunteering, etc.?
  • Unintentional gap? Laid off, company went out of business, could not find a job after school, could not find employment in your field, etc.?

Either gap can seem positive or negative at the time. But even the unintentional lay off or other job loss can have a positive outcome; provide time to add to your skill list or provide time to mentally focus, etc. The important thing is to focus on that positivity for your own well being and when talking to potential employers.

Next explain why. Both types of gaps offer explanations that employers are open to hearing about. Why? is the big question, but can be easily answered and even provide additional experience that the employer may be looking for. For example if you had a child and wanted to take a few years off that is not only understandable, but you also gained certain skills such as time management. And possibly additional experience by joining parenting groups (PTA, coaching, managing a charity drive, etc.), taking some classes during your time off, focusing on advancing your current skills, etc.

Maybe you took time off to start your own business or help someone else start one. There are skills learned with any business start up. Even if the business was not as successful as you had hoped or you found out you didn’t like the hours or type of work, you still have valuable skills to add to your resume. Examples of skills depending on the type of business could include;  budgeting, inventory, scheduling employees, customer service, hiring, meeting deadlines, organizational skills, computer programs, writing, labor skills, and more.

Unintentional gap examples include being laid off or unable to find work in your field. Both are self explanatory and more common than you may think, but you can discuss HOW you handled this time off, how you turned a possible negative time into a positive situation. Did you learn new skills, enhance your current ones, etc.? Did you volunteer, take any classes, teach yourself a valuable skill, find a mentor, realize the career change you wanted, etc.?

A brief statement on your resume with the career goal you have now is an excellent way to highlight your gap. The cover letter will allow you to go into more detail and turn the gap into a positive opportunity to discuss your skills and experiences. Explaining the positive impact the gap had on you will help the employer focus on your skills, positive attitude and how your experiences will fit into the position you are applying for.

Whatever the reason a career gap can be presented as a valuable experience by highlighting your current skills and experiences while explaining your gap in a positive manner. Remember, the main focus of any interview is to discuss how you are the best fit for the current position you are applying for!

Questions about career gaps or other career topics? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

Thank you so much for reading! Please share any tips or questions you  may have below or email me at successencourager@gmail.com

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Advertising flyer example (basic)

Hello everyone! I have been asked to share a simple sample of an advertising flyer. So here goes! This is a basic idea, but all the information is there 🙂 You don’t want the flyer too crowded, but you want it to include a bit about what services you offer, contact information, to be eye catching and simple to read. Please share your thoughts if you have other information you’d use for advertising or if you have any questions please let me know! Happy Monday all 🙂

 

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Self-Empowerment

Empowerment simply means to enable or permit. Recognizing and developing your skill-set (both personally and professionally) is self-empowerment; permitting yourself to acknowledge your hard work. This will allow you to set more realistic goals, build confidence and focus. This also requires some change.

Change? Yes, change. Change is good and exciting (and a bit scary, right?). Empowering yourself might require you to change your thought process, think about your future goals, and to focus on your strengths and weaknesses and thinking more positively about them. As fast paced as personal and professional lives can be, it’s important to take a moment to breath once in a while, clear your mind and focus; allow yourself to create goals.

Sure…clear my mind…you say…no problem! So, it’s easier said than done, right? Let’s work together and break it down as most of us can be overwhelmed with work or trying to find a job, changing careers, starting a business, taking care of a family, friends, coworkers, dealing with health problems, or any other one hundred and one stresses that life can toss your way (separately or all at once!).

  • First and foremost find the time. You have to find the time to define your focus; whether it’s 30 minutes, an hour, a day, a weekend.
  • Focus and define. Get a pen and paper or note-taking app (whatever you prefer and have access to frequently to update, etc.) and start writing/typing out your focus. Do you want to focus on your career, business, family, relationships, writing, finishing a degree or starting classes, health? Maybe you want to focus on all of these…but for now choose the top one to three areas that you most want to focus on today. Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s not a test, it’s a start to your empowerment!
  • Next to your goal(s) write a once sentence mission type statement. Sum up why the list is important to you right now and a simple plan to make it/them a priority. Ask yourself how this goal(s) will lead to you accomplishing others and/or the larger picture goals? Examples – will starting a business allow you to have more time with your family? Would focusing on your health allow you to focus more on your education and attend courses? Can you combine goals? For example – If you want to focus on meditating daily this could help your health and lower stress levels, help you focus better at work, etc. to accomplish this you could get up 30 minutes earlier, use part of a lunch hour or pick a time before bed.
  • Keep your written goals visible, look at them periodically, update them, use a calendar to write notes and track your progress. Don’t get discouraged if you realize another goal is priority, simply shift to that goal and start the process of focusing on that new goal; write your mission statement, etc. Create a vision board or journal if this helps you focus. Only you know what works for you personally.
  • Create a realistic timeline/schedule. Don’t stress on timelines, but set a general time-frame goal. If setting a certain time daily works for you, then schedule it. Is this part of a year plan, five year plan, etc.? Do you want this to be part of your lifestyle forever or just until you accomplish said goal or is it assisting you with another goal?
  • Use this exercise to self-guide yourself; focus and expand your knowledge in the areas of your goals. Mainly, realize what it is that you want and put thoughts into actions and empower yourself to accomplish what is most important to you!

Self-guiding is the most personal way for you to focus on your particular goals. You can research information related to you and your path, personalizing your plan. This creates a higher success rate and allows you to be in complete control. It is fine to balance general guidelines with your own process. Explore what works best for you. There are webinars, books, community courses, mentors, videos, and other resources available for free through libraries, online, educational institutions, conferences, local groups, and more that can help you learn more about your main focus. Of course there are traditional course studies as well. Again, it’s just about finding your balance and what works for YOU.

Remember, you can balance personal and professional empowerment with the tips listed above. It’s time to focus on you, your goals and empowering yourself to recognize and complete steps needed for your amazing future!

Have additional tips? Share them! Have questions? Ask them!

Thank you so much for reading!

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses not only helps you answer one of the most popular interview questions, but helps you understand yourself, build confidence, and recognize the skills you excel in and areas that offer an opportunity for growth as well. Even if you are not preparing for an interview you can benefit from recognizing your strengths and weaknesses.

To clarify – Strengths are not only traits you feel you are good at…you have to feel comfortable and confident doing them. Just as weaknesses are not faults! Defining a weakness is not a bad thing, it’s not negative, and it certainly does not define you. Being aware of a weakness, or two or five, is opportunity for growth or help realizing what field or hobby you don’t want to explore. A weakness is simply a skill you lack experience or knowledge in or can be something you do not feel comfortable doing. You can strengthen a weakness if you choose to; practice, research, read about it, explore projects at work or through volunteering that allow you to gain experience or knowledge. You can also become more comfortable by practicing or reaching out to a mentor and learning more about that particular weakness.

It may sound simple, but recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and knowing yourself is a must for interviewing as well as building self-confidence. Of course you know you better than anyone. Right? Actually, it’s not always that easy…is it? I recall during some of my first interviews years ago being asked to describe my strengths and weaknesses and saying ‘ummm and well….’ a lot. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves we have talents, skills, experience and a lot to offer, whether to an employer or just as a reminder to one’s self.

So, how does one recognize these important traits? Ask yourself questions, use keywords to describe each, and write out your pitch. Remember, there are certain words to include and others to avoid.

What is a pitch? It is also called the ‘elevator pitch’ – typically a two to three minute explanation of why you are the right person for the position, project, or describing yourself, etc.  I have used a pitch for book ideas and article submissions as well as interviews.

Your pitch is a collection of information in a ‘short version’ quick response. When asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses your pitch is a perfect response. To create your pitch consider the following questions. Please note – I’ve focused on interviewing, but this can easily be used for those seeking this for personal recognition.

  • Summarize your work history, volunteer efforts, or other experiences that have helped you gain skills along with an achievement. What have you been accomplishing the past year, five years, ten years? Have you stayed in the same field; sales, non profit, education, retail, construction, etc.? Have you had your own business?  For example you may say something like, “For the past five years I have worked in the non-profit field and coordinated several fund raising events including the largest event of an organization.” You can sum up your work field, history and an accomplishment quickly.
  • Recognize your strengths. What are you good at and and what do you enjoy? Maybe you have a knack for researching and solving problems or being a team leader or support within a team, you can sell anything, you can organize files, plan an event without breaking a sweat, bake a cake using unique ingredients, speak to a group, teach others, etc. For a simple example you can add a sentence to your pitch that goes something like this, “I led a team and together we developed a solution to lower costs on shipping while training the shipping department how to use this new system, making work even more productive.” Again, use examples to show your strengths (show don’t tell), backed by actions and facts.
  • Recognize your weaknesses. What would you like to strengthen? What skills do you not feel 100% confident in completing? What else would you like to learn? You may be the number one sales person or the assistant everyone else comes to with certain questions, but is there a skill you admire in others that you feel you aren’t quite as strong in? Could you learn more about a particular computer program, work ahead of deadlines, do you need to know when to delegate or how to set realistic deadlines and prioritize projects, do you want to dive deeper into a presentation program, or stop using post it notes for all your important reminders? For example you could add this to your pitch, “I can take on too many projects since I enjoy multitasking, but I have to set limits on myself to ensure each project is completed well and by the deadline.”
  • Where are you going? End your pitch with your expectations, future goals, or five year plan (or year or ten year plan). For example, “I plan to gain knowledge in my particular field of interest (insert it here), while providing my skills in an education based environment.”

Practice saying your pitch out loud until you can repeat it confidently and without it sounding rehearsed. Accept your strengths and be proud of them. Recognize your weaknesses and find an excitement inside you that wants to strengthen them!

As you accept a job and when you leave a position/job ask your supervisor and coworkers to describe your strengths and weaknesses. This will help with your future interviews and with accepting what you excel at and areas you can learn in! Update your pitch as often as needed!

Tips to share? Contact me or comment here. Questions, please ask!

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How to gain work experience

I’ve been asked to share some options to gain experience and skills if you don’t have a lot of work history or educational degree seeking. If you are new to the work force, in between jobs, changing careers or simply looking for a job for whatever reason, gaining more experience is always a positive step!

My first option to share is volunteering. Volunteering allows you to learn new skills, explore different job types, make connections, add to your reference list – volunteer leaders/directors, etc. make great references! Volunteering can help you find the job you want in and out of the non-profit world. A lot of business owners, directors, bosses, managers, etc. volunteer their time and it can be a great way to make connections for future work opportunities.

There are many volunteer opportunities for practically every type of skill level, time availability and personality. You can volunteer hands on or even without leaving your home! Volunteer opportunities include; writing, organizing spaces or files, donation outreach, computer programming/web design, teaching, spending time with the elderly or those in care centers or hospitals, cleaning, developing mailing lists and/or mailings, research, event planning and setup, deliveries and personal drivers, fundraisers, thrift store or gift shop clerk, court appointed advocate, hospice care, handyman/woman, art projects coordination, animal care, project sewers, music lessons or playing, knitters, personal shopper, and so many more opportunities!

If you have more time and passion about a particular organization you can also look into being a board or committee member.

I volunteered for a non profit that was close to my heart for over five years, when the coordinator retired, they called me to offer me the job. I was shocked and excited. I accepted the offer and had almost three years in that position! During that time I made some great contacts and learned skills and gained experience that has helped me with obtain my current position.

You can search particular organizations for their volunteer opportunities or use such sites as volunteermatch.org to find your perfect match!

Another option is starting your own business and gain experience with the skills you already have; lawn-mowing, cleaning, administrative/office, handyman/woman, sewing, tutoring, travel guide, computer repair, freelance writer or web designer, cook, baker, or any other skill you enjoy. Advertise throughout your neighborhood, post your skills on social media, make business cards and leave them at libraries, laundromats, put a sign in your own yard and/or ask friends if you can advertise on their property, etc. Don’t let the thought overwhelm you. Most business can be started slowly with word of mouth advertising and/or free posts, etc. Depending on the business you may already have all of the tools / supplies you need or purchase at a low cost/investment. And each customer becomes a possible reference, repeat customer, and marketer for your business! Freelance work opportunities have allowed me to gain some valuable professional and personal work experience!

Online courses, community education classes, workshops, conference, etc. are also worth exploring. Some offer low cost or even free computer course, refresher classes, web design, accounting, etc. Some public libraries and public education institutes offer free basic courses. I have taken free online courses in the past to refresh some skills I had not used at a current position, but required at a new position I was applying for.

The experience you gain is resume worthy!

Do you have any other tips? Please share them!

Questions? Please ask them!

Thanks for reading!!!