Job Search

Wait! Before You Accept That Job Offer!

When you’re seeking a new job, the last thing you want is to accept a position that’s worse than one you left, or that you’d rather be unemployed than have.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to decrease that chance. Here are some things to consider:

  • Does market research reveal the salary is within fair market value for the responsibilities? Not the title — the actual responsibilities you’ll have.
  • Have they communicated all benefits? If not, hold on acceptance until you know the full picture.
  • Do you have an offer in writing? I once accepted a verbal counteroffer of promotion from my employer and turned down the other job that was two pay grades higher. The promotion had been promised without first seeking higher up approval. I never received it.
  • Have you discussed the offer with a trusted adviser? Our judgment can be impaired when we’re eager to move from a current role, or move on from being unemployed. Seek counsel from an objective person.
  • Is the salary too high? Inflated salary can be a red flag. Years ago I accepted a job that was paying $20,000 above other comparable jobs in the area. Two words: crazy town. Don’t be afraid to ask why the salary is higher than other positions to see how they answer. Also, talk to people who work there and research the culture on Yes, you have to take some online reviews with a grain of salt, but you want to look for recurring themes.
  • Are the responsibilities of the job something you can picture yourself doing every day without it putting a grimace on your face?
  • Is your partner supportive of you accepting the position?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of the reporting relationships, hours of work required each week, amount of travel, dress code, ability to telecommute, schedule flexibility, and the culture and personality of your manager and key people you’ll be working closely with?
  • Is the position a dead end, or is there a career path?
  • Is the company and position aligned to your values? Working in an environment that goes against your values will be soul-crushing.
  • Will the position harm your resume? e.g. Is it a step down from your last role? If so, you’ll have to provide a plausible reason why you opted for this role in your next job search. Or, is the reputation of the company one that could reflect poorly on you?
  • Did you have any bad vibes about the hiring manager or team members? Don’t ignore your instincts. Bad co-workers or managers can make your daily work life unbearable. If they aren’t putting their best foot forward in the interview process, it’s not going to get better once you’re on the team.
  • How well does the position match your overall needs?
  • How well do you truly match the overall needs of the employer?

If after going through this process you determine the answer is “no” you’ll want to be quick to communicate your decision.  You should be sincere and to the point. Here’s an example:

Dear Niam,                                                      

Thank you for extending an offer for the Project Manager position at Acme company. After going through the process, I’ve become aware the position will not afford the direct contact with external clients I am seeking. Perhaps another opportunity that is a strong fit for us both will surface in the future. I appreciate your time investment.

Best regards,


Declining an offer can be hard, but if it’s not right you’ll be looking for a new job in no time, either by your hand, or your employer’s.

All the best to you!​

Resumes Employers Want to See

You’ve heard it before with varied statistics: People spend anywhere from 7 to 30 seconds looking at your resume. As a hiring-manager-turned-career-coach, I want to share two simple tips to increase the effectiveness of your resume by thinking like the employer.

There’s a ton of advice floating around on getting your resume noticed: results, results, results, short bullets that don’t wrap to a second line, font, white space, results, etc. That’s all true, and important.

Let’s pause and remember that employers scan resumes. Why? It’s not just that they’re busy. Their brain is doing a matching exercise in the most efficient way it knows how: It’s performing a key word search aligned to their needs.

Help them find what they’re looking for!

First, print the job description and highlight the key requirements you meet.

Incorporate the verbiage they use in the job description into your resume for everything that is true of you.

Don’t embellish.

Language matters because it’s integral to the organization. If you mirror their language, your resume will resonate and form an opinion of stronger alignment and fit.

For example, if you have experience on your resume with Risk Managementand they’re asking for Risk Mitigation, change Management to Mitigation. If your resume says Process Improvement and they indicate Process Effectiveness, adjust your resume to match their language. You get the idea.

One very important note: You don’t want to re-write, verbatim, the job description under your experience, you just want to pull out powerful key words. The resume should align, not plagiarize.

For example:

If the job description requirement states:

  • Ensuring ongoing Enterprise Architecture compatibility

Your resume might state:

  • Established best practices while ensuring existingenterprise architecture compatibility

Next, reorder your experience to match their priorities.

The employer is revealing something subtly, yet not so subtly, in the job description: What is most important to them.

The most central requirements of the available position will be listed first. Ensure your matching experience is ordered accordingly. If strong stakeholder relationship management is the first requirement they list, ensure it’s not the last bullet listed in your experience.

To create an even more powerfully aligned resume, you might consider removing items from your resume that are completely unrelated, unless it’s a very impressive result.

These simple steps will help the employer’s brain create a strong connection between you and what they need.

All the best to you!

Bypass HR and Get Connected Directly to Hiring Managers

Applying for jobs online can be frustrating. Job-seekers often tell me they feel they’re submitting their resume into a black hole, and wonder if anyone even received it.

At a career workshop I was facilitating today, a participant told me she’d applied for a job and it was eight weeks before she heard confirmation her application was received. When you’re looking for a job, waiting two months for initial contact is not ideal.

On average, a company with 1,000 employees receives 100,000 employment applications annually. Adding your resume to the pile is not your best approach.

A friend of mine was job searching using a conventional online search and application process. After a month, and more than 17 applications with custom cover letters submitted, not a single response was received.

I suggested using the approach I’m about to share with you, and, in the same dayshe tried it she received three emails from people in companies she was targeting. She ended up meeting for lunch with one of those people, who then passed her information along deeper into the company, and she’s now a finalist for the position she was targeting.

As a side bar, the person she had lunch with told her his company wouldn’t have likely contacted her, because they don’t hire people without an inside connection.

Here is one way to approach this process:

Step 1: Research and Target Companies

Research companies that have the type of role you’re interested in. For example, I might use the career exploration tool O*net Online. If you’re an IT Project Manager, search “IT Project Manager” and then click a job title in the search results, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Find Jobs” to see companies in your desired area that are hiring. If you already know the companies you’re targeting, skip this step.

In my example search result, there are currently 581 IT Project Manager jobs posted in North Carolina. I can narrow and expand my search for a target location.

Step 2: Assess Your Connections

Let’s say Microsoft is a company of interest for an IT Project Manager role.

Go to the LinkedIn home page and enter “Microsoft” in the search box and click “People who work at Microsoft.”

In the search results, check if you have any 1st connections that currently work at Microsoft (you can also check for additional 1st connections by selecting people who used to work at Microsoft, as a back up).

If you do have a 1st connection and you are acquainted with them, send them a Message and ask if they’re willing to connect you with others they know within Microsoft that would know people in Project Management.

You’d be surprised how people within the target company will continue forwarding your information along until you end up in the right place.

If you don’t have 1st connections, look at your 2nd connections and expand theshared connections hyperlink (shown below) to see who you know that is connected to each 2nd connection you have.

The search results show how many 2nd connections you have (second red arrow). In the screenshot below, you can see I have 758 2nd connections and one 1st connection to Microsoft. Ideally, you want to identify 2nd connections that aremost closely related to the department or business unit you’re seeking and the person who connects you to this person is someone who has a favorable opinion of you.

Step 3: Write a Network Blurb and Ask Your Connection to Share it

Ask your 1st connection to contact the person they are connected with to ask them if they’d be willing to have an exploratory conversation with you. Make it easy for your contact by providing them with a networking blurb about you so they don’t have to conjure something to say about you.

Using the Microsoft example, I’ve written a networking blurb that states:

  • The type of role I’m seeking
  • Why I want to work at their company
  • What I’m asking of them to do for me

“I am currently seeking to join the Microsoft team as an IT Project Manager. I have 7+ years of experience managing large IT projects such as a company-wide CRM platform upgrade which was installed on time and within budget. I am interested in working at Microsoft because of the strong commitment to continuous learning and growth of its associates. Would you be willing to have a 30 minute networking conversation with me about your experience working for Microsoft?”

You’d be surprised at the high percentage of people who say yes to this request. I network my clients regularly and I have not been declined yet. Keep in mind:

  • I don’t refer people who are low potential or a poor fit for a position. Don’t ask this of people if you aren’t qualified.
  • I don’t refer people I can’t reasonably vouch for
  • I’m careful not to ask the same person repeatedly, or frequently

You increase your chances of landing a position by 42 times when networking.

If you have a great networking story using this method, I’d love to hear it!

All the best to you!​

A Better Way to Choose Which Job Offer to Take

I coach plenty of people that make a lot of money that detest their job. So why do people continue to take job offers with the best financial package?

We should know by now that money doesn’t make us happy. Polls show that satisfaction after receiving a raise fades in less than six months.

Realistically salary does matter. You have bills to pay. However, you shouldn’t simply choose the job offer that has the best salary offer on the table. Before you ever receive a job offer, you should outline exactly what is most important to you so you aren’t tempted to compromise when you receive an offer.

In addition to base salary, bonus, stock options, tuition reimbursement, vacation, and insurance, you should evaluate the attributes of the job.

The American College Testing (ACT) Program has identified 25 common attributes of work associated with personal job satisfaction. The assumption is that if the attributes of a job match one’s personal preferences, then one is more likely to be satisfied in that job, all other things being more or less equal.

You can create a simple table in Word or Excel spreadsheet and list the 25 attributes shown below.

 Next, arrange the work attributes into thirds:

  • The top third are workplace attributes that are desirable to you.
  • The middle third are neutral; you can take them or leave them.
  • The bottom third are work attributes that are undesirable to you.

Review aspects of the job description, as well as information you’ve received about the job from your interviews and other research. You can also add your own attributes to the above list.

Color code attributes that are present and desirable (top third) in green under the role.

Color code attributes that are present and undesirable (bottom third) in red under the role. This indicates the presence of work attributes that you don’t enjoy.

For example, if you want a job that allows you to contribute ideas, you color code it in green if a job offers this (shown in the example above). If do not want a job that requires you to create order (also shown in the example above), and a job has this attribute, you color code it in red under that role.

The job with the most green in the top third and fewest red in the bottom third is the best match.

Here are the definitions of the 25 work attributes:

Authority: similar to management, but towards non-employees, as in a traffic cop job—telling people what to do or what not to do (lawyer, consultant)

Certification: careers certifying competence by a degree, license, etc. (doctor, actuary, realtor)

Creating Order: using rules to arrange things (quality inspector, administrator)

Easy Re-entry: easy to move, or quit and come back, as after maternity leave (sales, mechanic)

Financial Challenge: advising others so that much could be gained or lost (investment/financial planner)

40-Hour Week: work that entails no overtime, taking work home, on-call status, etc. (postal clerk)

High Income: to be in the top 25% of money earners (NFL quarterback, executive)

Immediate Response: working/performing around others where immediate feedback is the norm–applause, laughs, boos, cheers, attaboys, attagirls, handshakes, etc. (comedian, flight attendant)

Influencing Others: convincing without authority (sales, counseling, health care, social work)

Making or Fixing Things: working with your hands or tools on electro-mechanical objects (mechanic)

Management: planning, directing, and evaluating the work of others (manager, supervisor, etc.)

New Ideas: creating new ways to do things – trying new combinations of ideas (advertising, consultant)

Non-Standard Hours: preferring work that is seasonal, temporary, part-time, shifts, etc. (consultant)

Occasional Travel: out of town travel about once a quarter (small-business owner)

Physical Activity: work that results in a significant amount of exercise–walking, lifting, sporting (construction, firefighter, baggage handler)

Precision: work that is done according to exact standards or procedures (assembler, fabricator)

Problem Solving: spending time figuring out how to do things, to get things done, to fix things (consultant)

Project Work: tasks lasting one week or longer (project manager, engineer, and architect)

Public Contact: work in which you can talk and be seen by non-co-workers (customer service, sales)

Routine Travel: getting out of the office/town once a week or more (many sales positions, consultant)

Short Training Time: less than 6 months required training after high school (construction work, receptionist, delivery driver)

Working in an Office: work most of the time inside, in an office (accountant, writer, banker)

Working In/Out: partially inside and partially outside (material handler, elementary school teacher, coach)

Working Outside: working outdoors in the weather, good or bad (cowpoke, mail delivery, door-to-door sales)

Working Separately: solitary work that requires little talking or other contact with co-workers (bookkeeper)

This is just another data point in addition to the total package being offered, but if a role has less green and more red than an offer with a little more money, you’ll likely be better off taking the job that has the attributes that will lead to better job satisfaction than just going for the dough.

All the best to you!

A Job Exploration and Job Analysis Tool

O*NET Online is a great tool for career exploration. You can perform key word searches to identify jobs and careers matching your skills, interests, and strengths. For example, enter “analytical”, “strategic planning”, “process improvement”, “operations management”, “risk management”, “customer experience”, “creative”, “innovation”, etc. and see what returns in a search result.

Clicking the hyperlinked job title in the results provides a wealth of information such as salary, education requirements, outlook for the field (growing or shrinking), competencies used in the role, details about the work environment, and more. There’s also a link at the bottom to review job postings in your desired area.

Here are my results for searching the term Creative:

ONET 1.png

​I selected Video Game Designers, since it has a bright outlook. The detailed information returned for Video Game Designer jobs includes:

  • Sample job titles, typical tasks performed, tools and technologies used in these roles
  • Required knowledge, skills, and abilities for these types of role
  • Details of the work activities performed, and other work environmental variables, such as working with email, indoors, typical work hours, etc.
  • Education and credentials needed
  • The interests, work styles, and values these types of jobs appeal to
  • Wage and employment trends (salary and growth)
  • A find jobs link to view job postings in your desired area

Go to to start your career exploration or job analysis!