Block & Bridge your way into your next job

Do you know the trick that every politician and TV personality uses in their interview? It is simple task of blocking and bridging. The next time you are watching a politician being interviewed about their campaign or a movie star about their next big blockbuster, watch the way they block and bridge to make a point.

Blocking and bridging simply means addressing the question that was asked such as “Why is the sky blue?,” then blocking that question and then bridging over to an answer that relates to a point you want to get across. Example: A politician is asked “Why is the sky blue?,” but actually wants to discuss healthcare reform. He would then answer something like this “I was just admiring the blue sky today on my drive to this speech. As I was admiring the blue sky, I began considering the implications of the current state of health care in this country and realized that I had to do something about it…” This is a very simple example, but you can see where I am going with this.
Politicians and celebrities do this because they have an agenda or a point they want to convey and often times are not asked direct questions that allow them to relay this point. 
You, as a job seeker, can use this same tactic during an interview. When asked ANY question in an interview, your goal should always be to look at where you can emphasize a point about why they should want to hire you. You should always have a list of 10 or more talking points that you want to cover during your interview. These talking points should highlight examples of what makes you stand out from others in your position and where you have increased the PEP (Productivity-Efficient-Performance) of your company, your clients, your peers etc… You may touch on one or two points during the interview, or you may hit all 10 depending on how effectively you block & bridge.
During the interview, by using the blocking and bridging technique, you can address these talking points at appropriate times in the interview.
Example: You were at your last job 10 years and you were recently laid off. Point you want to get across is how stable and loyal you are. Question the Employer asks you “Why did you leave your last position?” The average person would answer by saying “I was laid off.” One way you could answer if you were blocking and bridging is “I am glad you brought up why I left my last job. That was really an amazing experience. I loved the company, which is why I stayed there 10+ years, and would have stayed there long term since I loved the people and the work. Unfortunately, like many firms, they had to restructure, but I am grateful for the 10 great years I had there and the experience I gained.”
In this case, you are addressing the question still, but you are also bridging to a point about how stable and loyal you are.
I want to be clear. I am not saying to NOT answer the questions you are being asked. I am suggesting that you answer the questions you are asked intentionally to get a point across that you are the right candidate for the job.

Top 5 Social Media tips for job hunters

1) Put together a Linkedin profile that includes Linkedin recommendations and include your Linkedin URL on your resume

2) Join a minimum of 20 groups on Linkedin and start discussions in your speciality area to set yourself up as an expert in your field with a group of your peers
3) Follow your favorite recruiters and companies on Linkedin/Twitter and/or Facebook to stay aware of the latest job postings
4) Use Twitter to start conversations with people in your field who you wouldn’t normally have access to
5) Maximize your connections on Facebook, Twitter and/or Linkedin by asking your friends and business associates for job leads (always use the 30/30/30 rule when doing this: 30%
personal, 30% offering resources such as interesting articles and 30% about
your job search such as requests for introductions)

The TOP 15 things NOT to wear on an interview

There are many job seekers who still do not know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to wear in an interview. Often times, something as simple as what you wear can get you passed on for a position.

Here is my list of the TOP 15 things NOT to wear in an interview:
1) Denim! It is never, ever appropriate to wear denim to an interview
2) A short skirt
3) A t-shirt
4) A dress or blouse that shows any sort of cleavage
5) Dangly jewelry (this can distract the person you are interviewing with)
6) Carrying a back-pack or big bulky bag
7) Headphones or sunglasses or a cell phone earpiece
8) Facial or body piercings or visible tattoos, including earrings on men (small earrings are OK for women) or heavy make-up
9) Brightly colored or overly patterned clothing (this includes “Hawaiian Shirts”)
10) Long acrylic nails
11) Overly baggy or ill-fitting clothes (it makes you look frumpy)
12) Stained clothes or wrinkled clothes
13) Scuffed shoes or too high of heels if you are a woman or flip flops
14) YOU MUST WEAR SOCKS if you are a man and they MUST match
15) A heavy fragrance or perfume-this can lose you the position

Getting an entry-level paralegal job

I just came from the annual fall Los Angeles Paralegal Association (LAPA) Conference. This year there were quite a few students at the conference and also some individuals who were looking to change careers and get into the paralegal field. The question I always get asked at these conferences is: “How do I get an entry-level or junior paralegal position?” As promised, I am going to address that question here.

Situation #1-If you are a recent college graduate who graduated with a Bachelors Degree from a top school AND your GPA is 3.5 or higher, you are probably in one of the best positions to get a junior paralegal position. Having your Bachelors Degree and an ABA approved paralegal certificate is probably the best position to be in.  
A lot of the larger law firms look for recent college graduates from top schools to train as paralegals. This does not apply for those people who only have an ABA paralegal certificate. If you are one of these people with a recent Bachelors Degree and ABA certificate, I highly encourage you to apply directly to some of the top firms such as Latham & Watkins, O’Melveny & Meyers etc… These types of paralegal candidates are the type that recruiters can probably be the best resource for.
Situation #2-If you are a recent graduate of an ABA approved paralegal program, but DO NOT have prior legal experience, a recruiter is probably not the best resource for you until you get a minimum of one to two years of experience. What you can do to find a job after graduating from paralegal school is to get to as many networking events as possible and try to get any law firm experience even if it is working for a small firm or doing pro-bono work. You may even want to go through and find attorneys and small law firms through or Martindale Hubbell. You can then call these attorneys directly and offer your services to these attorneys or firms at a reduced rate in order to get on the job experience.
Situation #3-If you are a recent graduate of an ABA approved paralegal program AND you do have recent law firm experience, you can often leverage that experience to find a “hybrid” paralegal position where you can do paralegal AND secretarial work or paralegal AND records etc… Sometimes you might even be able to land a paralegal position directly out of paralegal school depending on how substantive your prior legal experience was. Having recent law firm experience can make it a lot easier for you to find a paralegal position once you graduate.
Situation #4-If you are a recent graduate of an ABA approved paralegal program and you are changing careers, you can sometimes parlay your prior experience into a new position. For example, if you are coming from a real estate company and looking to become a paralegal, that can often be one of the easiest transitions for a career change. A lot of law firms will look at recent paralegal program graduates if they have prior commercial real estate experience and/or title and survey review experience. This can also be true of other areas of law such as corporate law and intellectual property law. If you do have experience in another field, outside of legal, you may want to add a “Summary of Qualifications” to the top of your resume and bullet point your relevant paralegal related experience at the top such as research, writing etc… Also, you want to make sure and leverage your other corporate connections and use the people in your network to help you get a position.
I hope this information is helpful for you and wish you the best of luck in your job hunt!

How do I handle it if I was terminated from my last job?

Getting fired is never easy. Many people will be terminated for one reason or another at some point in their career, however, I have noticed in speaking with a lot of the unemployed that they are confused about what constitutes a “lay off” versus a “termination.”  Many job seekers are going into an interview saying they were terminated, when that is not actually the case. 

In recent years, many people have been laid off due the the economy. Typically a lay off is something that happens when a company has to make cut backs for whatever reason. 
The term termination is most often used to describe when someone has been terminated for cause. Being terminated for cause means that you did something that caused the company to have to terminate you.
Examples of reasons someone would be terminated for cause are as follows:
-Sharing trade secrets or confidential information
-Violating a company policy
-Constantly being late or missing too much work
-Making too many mistakes
A lay off often happens because:
-A company is cutting staff
-A company is relocating
-A company is restructuring
It is important to be clear whether you were laid off or terminated. Even if you were terminated, I would not recommend using the word “termination” to describe your reason for leaving, such as saying “I was terminated.” The word termination has a very negative connotation in our culture.
An employer will never say you were terminated either. They can only confirm your dates of hire, salary and in some cases, whether or not you are eligible for rehire.
If you were terminated and have to explain why you left your last position, you might want to try saying that “You came to a mutual decision that it was not the right fit,” or something similar that conveys that you and the company came to a decision for you to part ways.
Being asked directly if you were terminated, is very different then being asked why you left your last position. If you are asked directly on an application or by an employer whether or not you ever have been terminated, you have to be 100% honest at all times and state yes, if you have been terminated.
Whether you were “laid off” or “terminated,” you always want to be sure to use the GOOD-BAD-GOOD method in explaining why you left your last position.
Always start with the GOOD, why you originally accepted the position and why you stayed there as long as you did, then lightly touch on the BAD, why the lay off or termination happened, and finally follow up with the GOOD, what you intend to create out of leaving your most recent position, ie. what is next for you.
Stay away from saying things like “it was not my choice,” “it was unfair” etc… Instead, look at how you can find the positive in all of this and convey your positive attitude in the interview regardless of your circumstances.

Functional Vs. Reverse Chronological Resumes

When is it appropriate to use a functional vs. a reverse chronological resume?

First let me start by explaining that a reverse chronological resume is what you see when you look at a typical resume. It starts with your most recent position and goes backwards with a description of each job. A functional resume is a list of all of your skills done with bullet points of your skills listed at the top and a breakdown of your past employers listed at the bottom with simply your employer, title and dates and no description under each position.

So what type of resumes do employers prefer?

Hands down, reverse chronological resumes are preferred by recruiters and employers alike. The problem with functional style resumes is that it is impossible to tell what type of work you did for each specific position. Interestingly though, that is also the good thing about functional style resumes if you are looking to switch careers.

Functional resumes are good for three types of people:

1) Recent college graduates who do not have much work experience
2) People who are looking to transition out of one field into another
3) People who have a lot of movement on their resumes

Even though employers strongly dislike functional style resumes, they are very useful for recent college graduates. When you have recently graduated, you often do not have specific work experience, however, you do have skills that you acquired during school that you can list on your resume under the functional style.

The same is true for people who are changing careers. You might not have specific work experience in your target field, but you may have similar knowledge from your past position which you can list under your “summary of qualifications” at the top of your functional style resume.

As for people who have movement on their resumes (ie. switching jobs every 1-2 years), functional resumes can be a good way to cover 10 years of experience where you might have had 7-10 jobs. If you are someone who has a lot of movement on your resume, the best thing you can do is try to get a good position and stay there for at least 4-7 years to get some stability on your resume.

In general, unless you are a recent college graduate or changing professions, I strongly recommend using a reverse chronological style resume. You can find numerous resume templates online or you can use “resume wizard” in word to find the template that works best for you.

Happy resume writing!

What are the 5 quickest ways to ruin an interview?

There are many things that can cause an interview to go awry, however, there a few critical things that can end an interview rather abruptly.

The number one thing you can do to ruin a great interview is:

2) Not being prepared
3) Not being dressed professionally
4) Not making good eye-contact
5) Interrupting the interviewer

Avoiding these 5 things will get you on your way to acing your next interview.

Negotiating Your Salary

Have you ever received an offer that you were dissatisfied with? If you did, it is probably because you were not coming from a position of power in the negotiation process. It is a recruiter’s job to eliminate that variable, as their goal is to negotiate the best offer possible on your behalf. However, when you apply to a job on your own, you are responsible for negotiating your own salary. So how do you do it?
The most important thing to note is to NEVER list a number when it says on the application what is your DESIRED salary.  The moment you write a specific number down or verbally give a specifics, you have essentially eliminated any room for negotiation. Always write “negotiable” or “flexible” on the application or when asked verbally for your salary requirements, let the employer know you are “open to any fair offer” or if pushed for a number, give a range such as low to mid 80’s.

Let’s say you get an offer of $80,000/year, with a 10% discretionary bonus and full benefits. You are currently earning $78,000 a year with a similar bonus and you were hoping for at least a $5,000 increase to make a move. How do you handle it once you receive the offer?

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: Am I willing to walk away from this offer? If you are, then you are in a very powerful negotiating position, however, if you are not, then you have some serious thinking to do. Are you willing to risk losing the offer over a few thousand dollars?

If you do believe that you deserve to make that extra few thousand dollars, you have to be able to justify why you are worth it. A few things you can use as negotiating points to justify why you deserve to make the extra money are as follows:

-How many years of experience do you have in the business?
-How do the benefits compare to your current benefits?
-Do you have any specialized skills, qualifications or advanced degrees that make you more qualified then another candidate?
-What is the industry standard compensation for the position you are applying for with your level of experience?

Next, if you are willing to walk away from the offer, then you should be direct with them and let them know once the offer is extended what your bottom line that you are willing to accept is and why you feel you are entitled to that level of an increase using the above listed negotiating points.
If however, you are unwilling to risk the possibility of losing the offer you currently have, but still want to see if there is wiggle room, I would suggest the following script.
“Thank you very much for your generous offer of $80,000 a year. I really appreciate the opportunity to work for your company. In a perfect world, I was hoping to be closer to $83,000 a year given my years of experience and qualifications.  Is this a firm offer or is there any possibility of getting me to my previously stated goal of $83,000 a year?”
Typically you will get one of two responses:
A)  No, there is no room for negotiation.

 There might be, let me check.

If you get the first response, you can then go to a default plan and see if there is the possibility of a review after 90 days or 180 days for an increase. Otherwise, you will have to determine if you can live with that offer. If you get the second response then you should be patient and see what they come back with as a counter offer.
Good luck in your negotiations!

How to effectively work with Recruiters

What are the things you need to know about how to effectively work with a Recruiter:

1. Don’t be afraid to use your recruiter as a resource to find out information about the market. Recruiters have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening with their niche market.

2. Always be 100% honest with your recruiter about everything from your academic credentials to your past employment. If a recruiter finds out you lied to them, they will likely not work with you again or worse, black-list you.

3. Work with your recruiter to help them understand your ideal job that way they don’t waste your time by sending you out on positions that are not the right fit. Come up with your own “Wishlist” and work with your recruiter on making sure they understand what is on your “Wishlist”

4. ALWAYS keep a running list of where your resume was sent and by whom it was sent. This includes even your own resume submissions. The only time you should not know where your resume has been sent is if it was submitted for a confidential position.

5. SCREEN YOUR RECRUITERS-there are good recruiters and there are bad recruiters out there. It is fine to work with more then one recruiter, but be careful who you choose to represent you. 

6. Expect that your recruiter will likely call you anywhere from a couple of times a week to once a month depending on how hot your industry is.

7. Most recruiters should prepare you for interviews by giving you inside information about what to expect and interview tips, but not all do.

8. You will be expected to meet with a recruiter in person and in some cases they may test you if you are more junior or if the client requires it. If you are looking to get a position out of area then you should get Skype so that you can interview with out of state recruiters.  

9. DO NOT waste your time or your recruiter’s time by going on interviews that are not of interest to you. If a recruiter presents an opportunity to you that does not interest you, DO NOT have them submit your resume in the first place. Also, if you are confirmed for an interview, you must give at least 24 hours notice to cancel the interview (unless an emergency comes up), however, cancelling interviews in general can make you appear flakey and unreliable. If you cancel or reschedule more then one interview, a recruiter may not want to represent you again.

10. Recruiters will negotiate your salary and will present you opportunities as they arise. Be clear with your recruiter about your current compensation and what you expect to be compensated in your next position.

11. Do not expect your recruiters to always call you. There may be 100 or more recruiters in Los Angeles, however, there are thousands of job seekers. The phone goes both ways and don’t be afraid to check in every now and again.

12. Do not take it personally if you recruiter does not call you for a position that they called someone else for. They may have not gotten around to calling you yet or they might not have thought it was the best fit for you based on your “Wishlist.”

13. Call or email your recruiter once a week to check in if you are unemployed or every other week if you are employed.

14. Always check your recruiter’s website for new postings and email them if you see something that might be a fit or that would potentially interest you.

15. RECRUITERS DO NOT WORK FOR YOU THEY WORK FOR THE COMPANIES WHO ARE PAYING THEM. It is important to remember that recruiters work for free for the job seekers and that we do our best to accommodate everyone that we can. Please be considerate and respectful of a recruiters time when working with them and if you treat your recruiter well they can be your best ally.

Sample Cover Letter

I am always getting asked about what a good cover letter should look like. Below is a sample you could use as a reference when drafting a letter:

Dear Sir or Madam:

 I am very interested in working with XXX in a XXX position. Enclosed is a copy of my resume for your consideration and review. I feel that my X and Y skills could be a tremendous asset to your company.

I have spent the last 10+ years xxx and xxx as a Title Here in the xxx field. Though I thoroughly enjoyed my time in my last position, I am ready to pursue new horizons.  

I am committed to contributing my expertise to XXX, while learning and developing new skills that will facilitate company growth and expansion. My combination of in-depth skilled training and practical experiences at various companies makes me a unique candidate to contribute to the efficiency of the organization. I pride myself on fostering a positive mental attitude both in myself and the team around me.

Should you have any additional questions about my background, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to meeting with you in person to discuss my qualifications and to discuss how I can be a resource for your team. Thank you for your time and consideration.