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New Spring Things

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

This Spring catch us on FB n Twitter, sign up for our email list for our job opportunities. Message us for more info! Have a great day!

New Blog on Site!

Posted on March 23, 2011 at 5:19 PM Comments comments (0)

Check out the new blog at The Bontempo Group for relevant articles and information on the job market. www.thebontempogroup.com.

Do a Little Bragging and Land That Job

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 8:59 PM Comments comments (0)

            If you ask, it’s likely that your mother still has it stashed away in a closet, collecting dust, but a prized possession none-the-less.  I'm referring to the scrapbook or memory box housing mementos of all of your greatest achievements, beginning with a curl from your first haircut right up to a college graduation program and possibly beyond.

 

            Collecting such tokens of worthwhile achievements has long been the province of mothers, but in today's economy, another demographic would do well to compile a collection of noteworthy events--the job seeker.

 

            With, by some accounts, up to 17 percent of the workforce unemployed or working only part-time, and many of those working not employed in their field of interest or expertise, competition for jobs is at an all time high.  And while the traditional resume is still the initial line of attack when presenting yourself for a new position, it’s only the first shot fired. 

 

            Your resume must be the most polished piece you can put together, highlighting all of your professional accomplishments as well as your educational background.  However, prevailing wisdom still dictates that the resume should generally be no longer than one page in length, two at the most.  A single page leaves little room for details and although it may get you in the door, the resume is not the only tool on which to rely to seal the deal once you get an interview.

 

            For that, many job seekers are compiling “brag books” or, to be less blunt, portfolios which flesh out the basics of the resume with supporting documentation.  Individuals with careers in a primarily visual field have always maintained portfolios as an ongoing record of the best efforts of their work life.  For example, graphic artists continually update their professional presentations by adding samples of completed projects.  But additional pieces which show the individual’s creativity—a different slant on a current ad campaign, for example—would give a potential employer even more insight into the candidate’s talents and capabilities.

 

            As with anything, the key to putting together a successful portfolio is balance.  It’s imperative to keep in mind what would interest a potential employer, and leave out what wouldn’t.  No one needs to see your fourth grade report card, but a performance review which notes the fact that you’ve increased production in your department is noteworthy. Keep the presentation positive and leave out anything not only negative, but mediocre.  Employers are looking for standout employees and with the flood of applicants available, middle-of-the-road just won’t do.

 

            Any employee with any skill set in any industry can create a professional brag book; the portfolio is no longer only the province of the executive.  Sales representatives can include awards won for exceeding sales goals and quotas, testimonials from clients, letters of commendation from management and even company newsletters showing sales department rankings.  Any graphics which might indicate territory size as well as the growth of the territory under the candidate’s supervision would also be appropriate.

 

            Individuals with an expertise in P.R. and marketing could include any awards received, testimonial and client letters and endorsements and also samples of ad or marketing campaigns along with statistics defining the work’s effectiveness.  Engineers might showcase charts, graphs, blue prints and copies of finished products or sites.

 

            Even administrative assistants can produce effective portfolios which would include samples of letters and business correspondence (no corporate secrets or personal information, please), endorsements from bosses, even inter-company newsletters which the candidate created.

 

            Be certain when putting together your presentation that you avoid including any materials sensitive to your current or previous employers.  Not only is this potentially illegal, it signals a lack of discretion to any employer you might be trying to impress.

 

            As far as the portfolio itself goes, make sure that your presentation is clean and crisp.  Head to an office supply store and purchase inexpensive folders to which you can add and remove pages as necessary, bearing in mind that you’ll want to edit your presentation before every interview, culling and adding pages as appropriate.  Each page should itself be encased in a plastic cover; in all likelihood you’ll be using the portfolio numerous times and you’ll want a piece that you can spot clean, keeping individual papers protected from dirt.

 

            Above all, have several copies of your portfolio available.  Depending on circumstances, you might be asked to leave the piece with an employer for further evaluation—a request you don’t want to refuse.  Make copies of your awards and certificates.  Place originals in one folder and bring along a second folder which houses copies of each piece.  You can then offer to leave the duplicate presentation for further review while holding on to your originals.

 

            Before you embark on any interview, be sure to ask how many individuals you’ll be meeting with that day.  That way, you can prepare enough folders to distribute one to all interviewers for their review.  Be sure to bring along at least one extra copy just in case.

 

            Of course, if your portfolio contains large pieces of artwork or ad campaign graphics, you won’t be leaving the presentation behind. In this case, consider selecting your most interesting and successful pieces and having scaled down copies reproduced.  You can then put your best work into a smaller binder which you can leave behind, not only showcasing your work, but illustrating your industriousness and organization as well as the willingness to go the extra mile for the job.

 

            For those just entering the job market, a lack of professional experience doesn’t mean you should skip the portfolio. Scholastic achievements and awards, written work for which you’ve earned recognition and letters of recommendation from professors or previous employers for whom you worked while pursuing your education are all appropriate pieces to include in a presentation folder.  Once again, keep things as professional as possible, but be certain to include endorsements regarding your character and work ethic, which will help to make up for a lack of professional accomplishments in your industry.

 

            Mothers aren’t the only ones with bragging rights; candidates in today’s job market should take full advantage of the opportunity to tout their achievements.  No matter your industry or level of experience, providing potential employers with a professional portfolio (your own personal brag book) which highlights your accomplishments, will give you a leg up on the competition and help in securing the next step in advancing your career.

 

 

How to Use Internet Socializing in Your Job Search

Posted on November 11, 2009 at 7:48 PM Comments comments (0)

            It used to be that you sent an invitation to a specific event—a birthday, graduation, anniversary. These days, you’re just as likely to receive an invitation to join a network—a group of like-minded people looking for contacts through the internet.

 

            Social networking sites like MySpace have long been an internet staple for teens and college students looking to keep in touch with friends.  But business people have jumped on the bandwagon, adding to the success of sites such as LinkedIn, created to increase business contacts and share professional information.  Even traditionally social sites like Facebook have been accessed by professionals to increase business connections.

 

            So now that you’re looking for a job, how can you utilize this relatively new internet tool to your advantage?  Simple.  Join the sites, create your profile and get busy making contacts.

 

            Let’s start with LinkedIn, a free networking site geared to businesses and professionals.  Yes, “free.” Many sites offer at least a basic option for use which costs nothing.  Of course, more in-depth use can require payment, but basic plans work well to start.

 

            To join LinkedIn, simply go to the site and fill in the blanks on the “Join Today” page—basic info required to get you started. Next you’ll be asked how you want to use the site, for example, find ajob, find information about industries, find consulting positions, etc.  Once you fill in the information on the forms pages, you can get to work on your profile, which will serve to introduce you to other LinkedIn users.

 

            When you click on your profile page, you can provide a resume-type listing of current and past employers and positions held at those companies.  List your education and any additional information such as websites, interests, groups and associations and honors and awards. 

 

            Keep your information concise, but be certain to utilize business and industry oriented key words which will allow others to find you based on your experience.  Also, adding information about past jobs andschool contacts will enable LinkedIn to alert you when anyone with a shared background joins—another way to increase contacts.  

 

            Sub-groups exist on many sites which are industry related and provide a valuable outlet for increasing contacts as well as trading industry information.  Go exploring and find associations which will connect you to new sources and industry trends, then join them through the site.  Adding groups to your contacts also beefs up your profile, which may provide incentive for others to accept your invitations to connect.

 

            Since these sites sell themselves as connectors, exploit that aspect of the site to the fullest.  Once your profile is complete, begin to add contacts.  Click on the“Contacts” tab on the left side of the screen. On the next screen, locate “Add Contacts” on the upper right side of the screen.  Clicking this tab will then allow you to add contacts specifically, should you know names and email addresses. 

 

            More likely, if you’re new to LinkedIn, you’ll employ the “Import Contacts” option, which allows the site to mine your email address book for contacts.  Simply follow directions on the screen and your imported address book will indicate who is already a LinkedIn member.  You can then invite those contacts to join your network via an invitation sent through the site.

 

            Now, how to use those connections?  There are several ways.  Once you connect with an individual, you then have access to their connections.  It’s time to do some hunting.  Go through your connections and select someone who works in your industry or a related field.  Next, check out your contact’s connections to find additional people you might reach out to in your job search.

 

            Other ways to utilize these sites involve the use of mining the site database with keywords.  With LinkedIn, you can employ this tactic while searching under either the Jobs or People category.  Click on either tab and you’ll be directed to screens which will allow you to enter key words relative to your job search.  Use job titles, computer languages, specific company names…anything which applies to an area of interest career-wise.   By typing in key words you’ll come up with not only jobs, but in the “People” category, individuals who work in your industry as well as companies of interest—all potential new connections to aid you in your search.

 

            Allow yourself time to investigate and don’t get discouraged if you have difficulty initially.  Play around with key words, inserting various combinations to see what pops up.  Depending on your industry, don’t always specify geographical locations—many “virtual” jobs allow you to work from your geographical location for a company in another. Go broad, then narrow and see what surfaces.  Odds are, you’ll find something or someone which may turn out to be a bona fide lead on your job search.

 

            Facebook, while more genuinely a social networking site, can still be utilized in your job search in ways similar to those of more career oriented sites.  Here, it’s all about your “Friends,” as they’re called on Facebook.  Facebook Friends are simply your contacts.  And again, by connecting and adding friends, you increase your number of potential leads in your job search.  

 

            As with LinkedIn, the site is fairly self-explanatory to join.  Go to www.facebook.com and simply follow along.  Once you’ve joined, you’ll create a profile allowing you to post contact information,employment status and past positions, education, interests, etc.  A word of caution:  Although Facebook is a more personal site than LinkedIn, avoid putting too much personal info online—on any site.  Remember, if it’s out there, people will find it.  It’s always best to err on the sideof caution and remain as professional as possible on any site where you’re “promoting” yourself.

 

            Once you’vecreated your profile (which you can edit at any time), it’s time to add friends.  Go to the “Friends” tab at the upper left side of the page and click “Find Friends” on the drop down menu.  As with LinkedIn, the site allows you to mine your personal email contacts to see who you might already know with a Facebook account.  (No longer merely a kids’ place to congregate, you’ll be amazed at who’s on Facebook.)  Invite folks you know—you have to be confirmed as a “friend”—and once you’ve developed a network, check out not only your friends, but your friends’ friends for contacts to assist you in your job search.

 

            These sites also allow you to pose questions to your contacts as well as to provide updates as to what you’re currently working on. If it’s finding a job, say so. “Currently seeking opportunities in the marketing industry,” will do for a start.  You can also join groups, as onLinked In, which will again connect you with individuals sharing similar interests.

 

            Social networking websites make connecting with potential employment leads easy, fast and efficient.  LinkedIn and Facebook are two of the biggest and best, but there are tons of sites out there.  Be careful, though, with a world of information available a mere click away, it’s easy to drown in the internet ocean.  Yes, you need to use these sites,but don’t spend all your time socializing. You’re looking for a job, remember? These sites are tools, but they won’t build the house for you.  Utilizing a combination of efforts and resources will be the best way to get you back to work.

 

How to Look for a Job in a Down Market

Posted on November 11, 2009 at 7:39 PM Comments comments (0)

            Remember when you used to pick up a newspaper and review the classifieds to look for a job?  Pen in hand, you’d scour the page, circling items of interest to respond to later,when you’d type out a cover letter and send a copy of your resume through the mail.


            Nowadays,by the time you’ve read and circled a help wanted ad (assuming you could find one in the first place), your competition would have already contacted the company via the internet, submitted a resume and possibly secured an interview, all before you poured yourself a second cup of coffee.

 

            The employment market is changing by the nanosecond, as is the way we now need to look for a job.  In a world of point and click, even a fax machine, once thought to be almost instantaneous communication, seems turtle-slow.  So now it’s all about the internet.  Or is it?

 

            Without question, the internet is the most valuable tool available for job seekers.  Resources, for the most part free, access to company information and speed all make the internet the essential tool for the job hunt, especially in a tough economy.   However, old-school tools can be equally vital, especially the concept of networking.

 

            As soon as the ax falls, access your network and put out the word:  “I need a job.”  By all means use the internet; it’s the fastest way to update your contacts as to your status.  While you can’t legally export your work address book (that’s company property) don’t be afraid to reach out to former work contacts through public information—provided you keep your old company out of things.

 

            Let former colleagues know what’s going on, in a professional manner, of course.  A simple, “Due to company downsizing, I am currently on the job market and seeking a position in ‘blank.’  Attached please find my resume.  I will contact you shortly to discuss possible openings within your company,” will do. If you don’t have a current resume available (and if this is your first job search in a while, you probably don’t), say, “I will forward a current resume promptly.”

 

            It’s okay to send out the word in an email blast to numerous individuals; just be certain to “blind carbon copy” all recipients. The easiest way to do this is to create a false email address in your contact list and make that the first address in your email.  Something like [email protected] just fine.  Put this address in your outgoing address line, then insert accurate addresses in the blind carbon copy bar.  The first address will come back to you as undeliverable and the remaining legitimate addresses will be sent correctly, keeping your contacts invisible to one another.

 

            While former colleagues and work contacts will be your first point of attack, don’toverlook family and friends, who can be added to your initial email or sent another, slightly more personal email. Note the phrase “slightly more personal.”  Whining, placing blame or in any other way appearing unprofessional has no place in any communication regarding a job search.  Forward a similar “Due to company downsizing, I am currently on the job market and seeking a position in‘blank.’  Please keep me in mind and spread the word to your business and personal contacts that a qualified individual is seeking an opportunity.  I will be in touch shortly to explore any leads you may have.”  Even if you’re talking to your mother, professionalism is essential.

 

            Now that you’re on the internet, don’t stop at emailing colleagues and friends.  In addition to the obvious—searching job boards and career websites (detailed info on these topics will be covered in later columns), you need to play a bit. In this case, play doesn’t mean forty-eight games of solitaire in a row, it means act like the kids and do some social networking.  If you don’t have a Facebook page, get one.  Social networking sites have evolved from merely places to find the next college beer bash to legitimate means of connecting people with more serious motivations, such as finding ajob.

 

            Facebookallows you to create a personal profile, post a resume, let folks know whatyou’re currently working on and looking for in addition to putting you in touch with thousands of potential contacts.  Also, like many social networking sites, Facebook has sub-groups which can be business related, another great source of old and new contacts.

 

            More business oriented sites, for example, Linked In, follow the Facebook format in terms of being great connectors.  LinkedIn works through connections by degree—first, second and third degree connections.  Kind of like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon played seriously.  Again, post a profile on Linked In, invite contacts, approach new contacts and watch potential leads for jobs grow exponentially.

 

            Please note that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the internet and social networking.  There’s a lot more to say on these topics and we’ll get to it in the coming weeks.  However, don’t wait around.  Start exploring.  You’ll be amazed at how easy and user-friendly the internet can be for the job seeker.

 

            Putting the word out that you’re looking is just the beginning, but it’s the most essential part of beginning.  Other key things to consider that we’ll cover as we go on:  Searching out and approaching smaller companies in your industry.  Also, don’t shy away from the big guys despite layoffs.  Large companies are always on the lookout for key people; their volume demands it.

 

 

 

Getting Back to Work: Current Trends andQuestions Facing the Unemployed

Posted on November 11, 2009 at 7:29 PM Comments comments (0)

            The unemployment rate has reached astaggering (reported) 9.7 percent.  Since the current recession began in 2007, approximately five million workers have lost their jobs.  And you’ve just become unemployed worker number 5,000,001.


            For job seekers, this struggling economy presents challenges unlike those faced by any other generation that’scome before.  Finding work and Getting Back to Work in this economic climate requires skill, knowledge, persistence and more than a little creativity.  This column will attempt to clarify current conditions, and answer the questions of the unemployed, most importantly, “How can I get back to work?”


            While all demographics of the working public are affected by the global recession, two groups hit hardest fall at either end of the working spectrum: recent college graduates and those ages 45 to 55—frequently parents of those same college students.


            With vastly different work experience levels, these groups might appear to have little in common, but circumstances dictate that similar problems might be approached in similar ways.

 

            First, the younger generation.  With companies doing what they can do to retain their current work forces and cutting substantially when they can’t, entry level positions, those acquired by recent graduates, are often the first to be put on hold.  College graduates, having been promised that a college degree would ensure a good job, find themselves disillusioned and frustrated, as well as broke with loans to repay and no income.  What to do?


            Staying in school is one option, asmore students opt to continue their studies towards higher level degrees.  Putting off entering the work force in tough times in order to jump in at a later date with more educational credentials can be helpful in those fields where additional education is eventually a requirement. 


            However, starting salaries frequently vary depending on educational degrees and occasionally, this can mean that the more educated individual with no practical experience can price themselves right out of a job.   When faced with two candidates with similar work histories ( in this case, two students with no practical experience in the industry), one with a Master’sDegree and one with a Bachelor’s, a company will often hire the lesser degreed candidate, whom they can acquire for less money.  A student can always go back to school, but the company’s bottom line, the more immediate concern, must be met.


            The conclusion?  Exercise caution before going right back toschool.  Investigate your industry and determine how much value a higher degree will add to your profile.  Better yet, contact high profile companies directly and ask—“Would you be more likely to hire an individual with a Master’sDegree or a Bachelor’s Degree given no work history in the industry?”


            A better scenario might involve continuing the college student mentality for a while longer.  Think about interning at a company of your choice—on a volunteer basis if necessary. Take a second job as a waiter, health care worker, stadium worker, etc.,to help pay the bills.  Most important, get your foot in the door of your industry. When times improve, you’re already there, and if you’ve done a decent job, you’ll be in line for an early hire. 


            Though they’ve worked their entire lives, the 45 and older set finds itself in comparable territory with the younger generation in today’s market. Suddenly without employment, many for the first time since they’ve been out of school themselves, this group is not only looking for work, but doing so with a skill set that has become obsolete.


            The emergence of the internet vastly changed the job market and the hunt for employment.  Gone are the days of picking up a newspaper and scanning the classifieds for jobs. Today’s job seekers must hone a new set of skills which rely largely on internet savvy they don’t often possess. Learning how to search for a job becomes a job within itself.


            Frequently, faced with dwindling openings in their industry, the older job candidate often expresses a willingness to try something else.  But how feasible is jumping ship to a whole new career at this stage of the game?  Unfortunately, not very,especially if you expect to jump in at a similar pay rate.  But, it can be done, as long as the applicant is willing to take a page out of the college notebook and pursue volunteer opportunities in other markets, supplementing income with a second job.  Even offering services free of charge as a consultant to a business within the candidate’s industry of choice gets a foot in the door.  Then, in an improving economy, you get hired.


            There are industries in which openings are ready to be had, although most experienced workers don’t usually see the opportunities in these markets. Health care and education still offer openings, but workers need to make adjustments in terms of expectations. The likelihood of jumping from one career path to another with similar pay, benefits, etc., is slim.  Adjust expectations and new possibilities emerge.


            Unlike their younger counterparts,this generation could well benefit from additional schooling—to brush up on technology and stay current on industry innovations.  Community colleges still offer the best bargains around for maintaining an edge in your field.  Additionally, if the older worker wants to explore new industries, community colleges as well as continuing adult education programs offered by many public school systems provide excellent opportunitiesto test the waters without major investments of time or money.


            None of this follows the plan for the American Dream—go to college, get a good job and work until retirement.  The rules have changed.  It’s time to write your own plan if you want to get back to work.

 



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