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What to do if you’re an imperfect candidate

You just read an employment ad for what you think would be the perfect job. The problem is, your skills and experience aren’t a perfect fit for the role. There’s really no point in sending in a résumé, right?

 Before letting discouragement or doubt get the best of you, take a moment to assess whether submitting an application really would be a waste of time. If your qualifications diverge sharply from what the employer requests — for example, if the firm asks for five years of experience in a certain specialty, and you have just one — it isn’t worth your time or the employer’s.

 But if your skills and experience are close to what the organization seeks, it may very well be worth tossing your hat into the ring. Many companies are now realizing that being too exacting during the recruitment process can lead to missed opportunities to hire talented professionals with strong potential.

 You need to consider yourself from a hiring manager’s perspective and build a case that shows why you’re the best person for the position. Here’s some advice:

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Multitasking: How to do it right

There’s no question that multitasking is more than just an expectation for today’s workers: It’s a necessity. Technology adds to the pressure to do many things at once by keeping people constantly connected to their work and creating an ongoing sense of communication urgency. (How often have you checked your email or tapped out a quick IM while doing something else? Perhaps you’re doing it right now.)

 However, while multitasking may be an in-demand skill, it can easily lead to big problems. Consider this scenario:

 The good … It’s Monday morning, and you’re on a conference call with your project team. After listening for a few minutes, you put your phone on mute. By the time the call is over, you’ve filed paperwork from the previous week, responded to several emails and made a to-do list for the rest of the day.

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Qualifications versus duties: Why knowing the difference matters

Some job seekers have problems selling their skills. They list their basic duties, which most job seekers have in common. You can stand out in a job search by positioning those skills so they set you apart.

Think of how a salesperson sells a car. He doesn’t tout the fact that the car has four wheels, windows and functioning lights, because you’d expect that from every car. Instead, he sells the unique points of the car — design, safety, mileage — all of which make the car appealing to a potential buyer.  

Job seekers need to do the same when selling their qualifications. Instead of saying you’ve used Microsoft Excel, tell the employer how you’ve solved problems or increased efficiency by creating a basic accounting process through Microsoft Excel.

Kyra Mancine, a professional copywriter with a career development background, says a list of job responsibilities is her biggest résumé pet peeve. “The key is to take a simple job duty and expand it to match the [job posting] with quantitative evidence of accomplishments,” Mancine says. “It may take some thought and creativity, but it can be done for any job, no matter what the level. I don’t care if you’re a sanitation worker, CEO or seamstress; anyone can do this.”

By adding numbers, statistics and adjectives applicable to the posting, job seekers can set themselves apart from others who have submitted more generic résumés.

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5 Feng Shui Tips for Job Seekers

 

Let’s face it — job searching is stressful. So if there’s anything that can be done to help bring positive energy to the experience, it’s worth exploring. That’s why the practice of feng shui is so intriguing. While feng shui may seem like something you do when decorating your house, its applications can extend beyond the abode and into your job search.

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, feng shui is “a Chinese system that studies people’s relationships to their environment, especially their home or workspace, in order to achieve maximum harmony with the spiritual forces believed to influence all places.”

“Feng shui is about how the space you live and work in affects your mood, energy level and your decisions,” says Donna Stellhorn, feng shui expert and author of “2012: Year of the Water Dragon.” “By making the appropriate changes to your physical environment, you shift the energy flow and prime your subconscious to recognize success opportunities.”

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10 unusual interview mistakes, and 6 that are all-too-common

Most of us can recall an embarrassing moment in our lives that was caused by nerves. Whether it was drawing a blank at a crucial time, spilling a drink on a first date or stuttering through a presentation at work, at one point or another, anxiety has gotten the best of all of us.

 One of life’s most notoriously nerve-racking events, the job interview, can be a perfect storm for the creation of these sorts of foot-in-mouth moments. The combination of excitement and pressure can cloud our judgment and lead us to make mistakes, decisions and comments that we wouldn’t normally make.

 Fortunately, making mistakes is part of being human, and most hiring managers will let the occasional blank stare or fumbled sentence slide during an interview. But, there are some slip-ups that just can’t be recovered from; mistakes so ridiculous that they’ll completely eclipse any potential you may have in the mind of your interviewer.

 What kind of mistakes, you ask? Well, mistakes like the ones below, which hiring managers reported to CareerBuilder as the most unusual interview mishaps they’d ever seen. (Though we’re not certain all of these mistakes were caused by nerves, we’re going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here — mostly because we can’t bear to think otherwise.)

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Job-Search Subtleties: How and Why to Sweat the Small Stuff

Sweating the small stuff can be the difference between landing a job and remaining on the sidelines. But many people fail to realize that the seemingly little things you do (or don’t do) can make a big impression on potential employers.

 Here are 10 small steps you shouldn’t overlook:

 

1. Cross your t’s. You wouldn’t think it’s a huge deal to misplace an apostrophe or confuse effect with affect. After all, everyone makes these types of mistakes. The truth is a single resume typo can knock you out of contention. Regardless of the job you want, demonstrating attention to detail is critical. Proofread diligently, run spell-check and ask the biggest grammar geek you know to review your work. (For amusing examples of what not to do, check out our company’s archive of epic errors at www.resumania.com.)

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Will you make six-figures? It may depend on your birth order

What your sibling status says about you and your career

The influence of birth order on personality, intelligence and achievements has long been debated. Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler, born in 1870, is said to have been one of the first to link birth order to one’s personality and direction in life. His research spurred a plethora of other studies, some with overlapping conclusions and others that contradict.  

My experience as the youngest in a family of three girls matches up with what much of the research says about last-born children. My parents were a lot more lenient with me. I tended to get my way, often to the chagrin of my older sisters. I suppose some of that could have been attributed to my knack for whining incessantly until my parents would just give up, but I digress.

According to several studies, I was actually at a disadvantage as the youngest, and my oldest sister pretty much had it made. If you’re the firstborn, you generally have an advantage and are often more educated and successful than your latter-born siblings. A study by a group of Norwegian researchers concluded that the IQ of firstborn children is, on average, three points higher than that of non-firstborns.

Birth order can also affect what career path you take and how successful, at least monetarily, you’ll be. A new CareerBuilder study examined how workers compare in terms of chosen profession, title and salary based on birth order and sibling status. According to the survey, my youngest-in-the-family status means I tend to prefer creative roles and gravitate toward editing/writing jobs.

Curious to know more? Here is a breakdown of common personality traits and career paths based on birth order:

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What your nightmares about work are telling you

Work dreams come in many forms. There’s the exciting “I finally got a promotion” dream, the awkward “I kissed a married co-worker” dream, and the boring “just another Tuesday at the office” dream.

 And then, there’s the kind of work dream that awakens us from our sleep in a cold sweat. The horrible “I drew a blank during a presentation in front of the CEO” – type dream, also known as the work nightmare.

 As awful as work nightmares can be while we’re having them, though, they can actually be very constructive, says Lauri Loewenberg, dream expert and author of the book “Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life.”

 “Whether [nightmares] are about work or something else, they mean your inner self is on red alert,” Loewenberg says. “Nightmares mean something in your waking life has gone on long enough and your inner self has had it. I always liken a nightmare to a slap in the face from the subconscious saying ‘Wake up already. This is a problem that needs to be corrected now.”

 So what could your bad dreams be telling you about your job? To help you figure it out, Loewenberg analyzed the real dreams of four workers, each surrounding a different theme common in nightmares. 

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Freelancing takes more than discipline and skill

Freelancers are known for having a passion for their craft and the ability to get the job done without bosses looking over their shoulders. But while talent and discipline are key elements, they are by no means the only ones needed for success.

“Many freelancers think that they will get to do what they love 100 percent of the time, but the opposite is almost true,” says Susie Ghahremani, a freelance illustrator from San Diego. “Since you are essentially running a one-person business, you have to be prepared to wear many hats.”

Adds Julie Heidelberg, owner of a public relations firm in Tampa, Fla., “In my world, there is an ‘I’ in ‘team’ — especially when you are the entire team. You’re the secretary, the accountant, the president, the janitor, the marketing rep … You do it all.”

Among the issues that come with the territory for freelancers:

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When can you quit without impacting your next role

Not all jobs are a perfect fit, but even if you know you’re ready to jump ship after just a few months on the job, it’s usually in your best interest to stick it out for a while. Most employers shy away from job hoppers, so it’s important to avoid that reputation.

 

Not sure when to leave a job? Here’s what career experts want you to know about a well-timed exit strategy:

 

Hit the one year mark at a new company

If you just started a job, try to stick it out for at least a year, says John Crant, founder of Self Recruiter. “At the one year mark, it’s much easier to position that one year stint as you having gone after a specific skill set or exposure to expand your expertise, making you a more well-rounded candidate for the true next step in your career goals — the [new] job they are offering,” Crant explains.

 

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