LinkedIn For Executives: How To Create A Winning Profile

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS,CCMC,CJSS,CSMCS

linkedinLinkedIn is a great tool for find a new job if you use it correctly.

It’s not enough to have a LinkedIn profile.

Every professional has one. And people are pretty good about keeping their profiles professional and updated, which means that you’ll have to go beyond their efforts to stand out.

If you’re struggling to create a LinkedIn profile that will set you apart from the competition, I have a process for you to follow.

Here are the steps I’ve provided to other executives to help them make the most of their LinkedIn profile.

Step 1: Make your summary meaningful

These days, busy recruiters and potential colleagues see dozens of LinkedIn profiles every day. Use your summary space as a place to write a meaningful paragraph that will immediately connect with people.

With our limited attention spans and endless to-do lists, recruiters and those looking to network with you need a quick way to get to know you, your experience, and your goals. Providing a two to three sentence summary can do just that.

In your summary, focus on the qualities and skills that make you stand out.

What truly drives you?

Where have you seen the greatest success in your career?

Focus on these critical questions to make sure you have an immediate impact on those who take the time to read your profile.

Step 2: Add the right keywords

One of the ways potential recruiters and employers will find you on LinkedIn is by searching for specific skills. By thinking about which keywords people will be looking for, you can infuse your profile with the terms that will get you noticed quickly.

Think about each of your roles – past and present – and make a list of key tasks within those roles. Then, pull out specific, action-oriented keywords that communicate how you had an impact in that role.

And think broadly about skill areas, too – if you’ve spent time working on your organization’s social media presence, think about all the ways someone might look for that experience: by searching for “social media,” “social networking,” “online marketing,” or others.

Step 3: Take your photo seriously

Leave your pet photos and family portraits for Facebook.

Connections on LinkedIn want to meet you – the professional you. If you can swing it, invest in a professional headshot – you’ll be able to use it long after your LinkedIn profile has worked for you.

Having a professional, put-together photo shows that you’ve put thought into even the littlest details of your presence online. More importantly, it portrays the version of you that’s most valuable and employable for those looking to connect with you.

Step 4: Take advantage of multimedia

LinkedIn has amazing features that allow you to share images, work samples, links, and articles that show the best moments from your career.

Did you write an op-ed for an industry publication?

Include it in the files on your profile.

Did you write a presentation about industry trends (and check with your employer to be sure it’s safe to share publicly)?

Add a slideshow – or better yet, a video of you presenting it. These add a dynamic dimension to your LinkedIn profile that will set you apart from the pack.

Step 5: Network, network, network

Most people make the mistake of thinking that networking on LinkedIn amounts to connecting with the people they already know from current or previous jobs.

But networking on LinkedIn can be so much more. LinkedIn’s Groups feature allows you to be a part of groups that are relevant to your position or industry, opening you up to connecting with more people through your shared interests.

In addition, you can follow specific companies or thought leaders that share your interests or relate to your work. This shows that you’re invested in following the latest news and trends across your category.

Final Thoughts

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for your personal brand when you take the time to create a profile that really highlights the best parts of you, your experience, and what you have to offer.

These steps will get you started, and soon you’ll be connecting and networking your way into new opportunities!

If you have questions about your job search, contact me at 203-323-9977 or

Image: Nan Palmero







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Fast Facts For Phone Interview Savvy

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

Phone InterviewYou have created a killer Value Proposition, an attractive resume, attended networking meetings, researched companies and tracked all of your efforts as part of your career campaign.  All of a sudden, you are contacted to set up a phone interview for a position of your dreams.  The euphoria sets in and then all of a sudden you realize that this is not as easy as it sounds.  How do you ace this part of the interview process so that you can make it to the short list and gain a face-to-face interview spot?  Below you will find fast facts to help you earn your place on the list.

1. Be in control of date, time and place. The phone interview, also known as the phone screen, is your first personal contact with the company. You must schedule it when and where you can be free from interruption and distraction. You have a say in the scheduling so exercise it.

2. Research the companyDo your homework and make sure that you are up to date on what is happening.  (Twitter may be a great source for up to the moment content!) It may be a while from the time you sent your resume in to when you are called. Refresh yourself on the position and what brought you to apply.

3. Prepare the relevant stories for the positionThink about what things in your background relate to the position and what highlights of your career you want to bring out.  For example, if you are in HR and it is a position about benefits, you are not going to be highlighting your labor relations successes. Instead you are going to talk about reducing the cost of healthcare without sacrificing quality of care through smart plan design.

4. Keep your information in front of you. This is a rare opportunity where you can have your resume, notes about the company, validation stories, the job posting and blank paper for notes during the conversation.  Jump on this occasion to be prepared.  Many people do not really need this except for the security that it gives them. Their preparation is such that the words flow and this ease comes through on the phone. For others, a glimpse here or there is all they need.

5. Work on your voiceYour voice is all they have that is personal to go on.  Take a sucking candy to make sure that your voice is not raspy. Drink some water about a half hour before.  Modulate your tone,  Also, remember that they say you can see someone smile through the phone.  This is the time you need to smile because your voice is all they have to go on.  Keep a mirror nearby for a “smile-check”  OR  have a little sign nearby reminding you to smile now and again!

6. Speak on a land line whenever possible! This relates back to number one above.  You control when and where you are going to speak.  I know someone recently who was in the middle of an interview on a cell phone and lost the connection.  The interviewer did not call back!  Don’t let this happen to you!  Exchange contact information at the onset of the conversation in case the call fails.

Follow the above fast facts and you will be on your way to an in-person interview. Please leave me a message and let me know if you find this information helpful.

As always, if you are struggling in your job search, please reach out to me at 203-323-9977 or

Every Success –


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8 Tips To Kickstart Your Career Search in 2014

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCSConcept of start straight for business

Whether you have just been laid off or have been working on a career campaign for a while, the New Year brings with it the opportunity to start your job search anew. However, for some people, the feeling of being overwhelmed takes over and they are not sure where to begin. Below you will find 8 tips to start you on your way towards an organized, strategic, planned career search that will bring you closer to your next career transition.

1. Attitude Adjustment. If you were laid off from your job, there are a lot of feelings that accompany this job loss. Some people get angry, some are sad, some become paralyzed and others feel lost. While all of this is normal, the successful candidates are those who realize that this is where they are and what they have to deal with. They take time to deal with the situation but move past it as well so that they can focus on the actions they need to take to secure their next position. Working it through quickly and letting go is the first part of goal attainment.

2. Gain Clarity.  Take some time to think about what you want to do in your next job. This is very important because if you are not clear on what you want, it will be very hard to figure out the steps necessary to get what you want. So, what does this mean? Well, think about what you want from your next job. Do you want to switch industries? Do you want to change careers totally? Do you want to work in a bigger or smaller company setting? Should it be for-profit or non-profit? Take some time to start shaping the vision of your next job. This is one thing that people often forget about in the process. They just turn around and try to go back and do the same thing that they did before. However, for some people, this is a golden opportunity to make the career change they have thought of in the past.

3. Online Presence Check. Another important action to take is to do a check of your  “Online Presence” to see what is out there and what needs to be worked on. Look at facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr and other places that you appear and make sure that you do not have photographs or other information that will reflect you in a negative way.  For example, you do not want to have pictures that show you having taken time off from work for an unapproved reason or holding onto company property that you took home but should not have. You also do not want pictures of yourself getting drunk or doing illegal drugs. You want your presence to appear professional and further support that you have the skills and professionalism for the position you are applying for.

4. Resume Review and Rewrite. Take out your resume and give it a good once over. Is it modern or is this the resume you used 8-10 years ago? Find out what a modern resume should look like and see if yours needs revision. One of the most important things to do for your resume and for your job search in general is to have a strong Value Proposition.  I often call this the “spine” of your career search. It is the statement that answers the question of who you are in relation to the role that you are seeking.  It can be used as part of the introductory paragraph of your resume. It takes some introspective thought to create this statement of the value that you bring to the table so be sure to invest in it.

Re-working your resume is an arduous task that will pay great dividends when you are able to communicate your value and support it with the successes of your work life. It is important to show an employer that when they hire you, the successes that you have had are what you are going to bring to them.  The best way to do this is by recounting these achievements and providing metrics so that an employer can concretely understand what you can do.  A picture is painted when you describe handling global Human Resource issues in Digital Media for a staff of 1,000 employees worldwide rather than saying Human Resources in Digital Media. This is how you can promote your brand and distinguish yourself. Remember, looking for a job is a selling process where the product you are selling is yourself and what you can do for an employer.

5. Create or Review and Update Your LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform so having a good profile is important. When employers are looking to see if they want to bring you in for an interview, they will often check out your LinkedIn profile. So make sure that it is a good reflection of you from a business perspective.

6. Networking. Networking is a very important part of a successful career campaign. The “hidden job market” is often accessed through your network contacts.  What is this hidden job market? Oftentimes, before a position gets out onto the company website. a job board or some other method of advertising, someone hears about it and recommends a person for the position. Many times people are hired at this stage and the job never goes out elsewhere. The only way to hear about it is through someone who knows someone. And, the best way to do this is to share your situation with  your network.

7. Track your efforts. There are a number of things that you will be doing throughout this process including completing a number of applications, sending cover letters, creating and sending customized resumes, attending events and meetings, interviewing etc.  As a result, you need to have a way to track all of this. Figure out what works for you and scrupulously track your actions.

8. Prepare for interviews. Gone are the days when you went for an interview and the company spoke to you about what they do to educate you.  Today, it is expected that when you interview for a position, you have researched all different types of information about the company from what they do to the company culture to press releases and beyond.  Do your homework and be prepared.

I trust the above information will help you navigate the road of your career transition.  As always, I am here to help you. If you find that you are struggling, please contact me. Whether you want help with your resume, mock interviewing, or figuring out your strategy, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Every Success –


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Networking During the Holidays: 7 Tips for Successful Job Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCSChristmas Ornaments

Parties galore, lots of good cheer, network during the holidays for a bright New Year!

Yes, it is that time of year where parties abound and wishes of good cheer are everywhere.  What does this mean for you if you are a jobseeker? Does it mean hide because things may not be going the way you would like them to go in your life? Of course not! The holidays and all they entail are a perfect time to help you advance your career transition. Some people are astonished when I tell them this.

Think about it. There are parties and gatherings, both personal and business. People take it a little slower at times as they approach Christmas and are more amenable to the casual “stop by” for coffee and chit-chat.  As a jobseeker, this is your cue to get into gear. What should you do to maximize this window of time? Below are 7 tips to help you on your way.

1. Remember that networking is about them! This is the Golden Rule of networking. While you will share things about yourself and what is happening, your focus is on the person and how you can make a difference for them. Perhaps it is a suggestion of an interesting gift to get their child or a cool recipe to share for their holiday party, do not lose track of the purpose here which is to build and enhance your relationships.

2. Go outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. At office holiday parties, it is very common for departments to hang out together. It is comfortable, everyone knows everyone.  Be different. Break away from the crowd and mix and mingle with people from other departments. You never know when something may come up and a relationship or making an acquaintance with someone from a different part of the office may help you with a problem. For example, you are having a team meeting and were responsible for the food.  You were so busy that you forgot to place the order. Now you have to scramble and figure it out. Well, you remember that you met the head cook from the cafeteria at the holiday party and had some interesting conversations because like you, she is an avid NASCAR fan.  When you sheepishly ask her to help you out, she gives you a big grin and says, “No, problem!” The meeting goes on without a hitch and the food is plentiful with lots of extras. Your new found friend was only too happy to help.

3. Do not be afraid to talk about your situation. If you are one of the people who will be laid off effective 12/31, this is your chance to let people know that you are in search. There is no shame to it. This way if someone hears of something, they know to share it with you. This also applies to your personal parties and gatherings.  Many times people feel like they have to put up a bravado so that no one knows.  It is exactly the opposite. By following Tip #2, speak with people at your family gatherings and be honest and let them know what is happening.  You have not seen each other in many instances for almost a year and who knows what has transpired in their lives.  They may have started at a new company or created their own business. You never know unless you speak with them.  Maybe they entered your industry and have contacts at companies that you are interested in. Maybe they joined an organization that you might be interested in. Put yourself out there, enjoy and see what develops.

4. Don’t just wait for the parties. Christmas is the time of year when people send out their cards or emails with an update on what has happened over the year, the quarter or whatever time period works for you. Reach out to people. Send cards, emails or whatever you like but make the connection. Or, set times for getting coffee or tacos. Whatever your pleasure, just make sure that you do it. Make it fun, so that you enjoy what you are doing.

5. Watch your drinking! I cannot stress this one enough.  You want to be with it, able to speak intelligently and to come across as the consummate professional.  If you get buzzed, you will not be putting your best foot forward.  This is a bad move.  Don’t be lured by the siren of an open bar. It is not worth it to ruin your reputation and chances for making your next transition.

6. Be conscious of what is going out on Social Media. Many people relax their guard and lose track of how they are being tagged in photos or that their tweets may not reflect their best self.  “Digital Dirt,” as coined by Robyn Greenspan, lasts a lifetime so stay aware of what is happening out there. You with a lampshade on your head is not exactly what you want your boss, recruiters, hiring managers or referral sources to see.

7. Follow up with people. Networking is about relationships. You cannot have a relationship without the “relating part.” So throughout the year invest time every week to nurture your relationships and watch them grow.

So here you have the alchemy of a fruitful holiday networking experience.  As always, please leave me a comment and let me know if this helped you. If you are struggling in search, please send me an email at or call me at 203-323-9977.

Every Success, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays!






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The Key To Being Articulate And Confident In Your Job Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCSKnowledge-1 Small

If you are at the start of your career search or you are struggling and feel like you want a “do over,” this post is dedicated to helping you get on track.

When I speak with HR people from varying companies, they all tell me that the person who is articulate and confident is the person that impresses them the most. So how can you come across as this articulate, confident person when you are nervous about the interview?

It all starts with knowing yourself and your work life cold. In an interview, the interviewer is going to tell you about the position and you are going to show them how the successes you have had over the course of your career make you uniquely positioned to be the right person for the job.  By knowing the stories of your work life, which highlight your strengths and skills, you can present a clear picture to the hiring manager or HR person of how you can solve the needs of the company and, as a result, are the perfect fit for the job. It does not matter if you are looking to continue on in the same work or are looking to change your career or industry.

So, take some time for self –reflection and think about the successes you have had over the course of time. Do you notice any patterns? What are the skills that keep coming up? What are your strengths?  Make yourself a journal so that you can refer back to it and add to it during your search. Once you have a handle on the many facets of you in your work life, you can start to create your Value Proposition, which is the backbone of your career campaign. Take this information that you have gleaned through your introspection and turn it into a clear, concise statement of who you are and what you bring to the table when you go to work.

In today’s world of job search, you need to be able to spit out your Value Proposition in 30 seconds or less. It has to roll off your tongue in an effortless manner with an air of confidence. And, your ability to do this in such an assured manner sets the stage for the questioning that comes next.  The nervousness can drop away because you are fully familiar with what happened in your work life and can pull examples that match up with or complement the issues that the interviewer is concentrating on.  Most interviewers know that you are not going to have an answer for everything; however, it is how you carry yourself through the process that counts. By being as well-versed in “you” as you are in your research of the company, you will be able to handle whatever comes your way, including responses that reflect that you do not know everything.  This is because this shows your honesty and honesty is a core value that is prized by most companies.

So there you have it. The key to being articulate and confident is knowledge about yourself.  So when Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power,” he was correct right down to a 21st Century job search!

As always, please leave me a comment and let me know if this post helped you. And, if you are struggling in search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

Every Success-







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The Process of Transition in Career Transitions

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

The FutureThis is the time of year when transition comes to the forefront with it being the end of the academic year and graduation time, where speeches fill the air with discussions about the changes that the graduates will be encountering. As we sit and listen to these graduation speeches, we often reflect upon our own lives and where we are at in the process. If you are in career transition, this is particularly apropos.

TransitionsIn the  book, Transitions, by William F. Bridges, the author explains that transition is different than change. Change is more the outward manifestation of the circumstances. Transition is the psychological process that we go through as we move from one stage in life to another. This includes relationships as well as our work lives.  “It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life… Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.”

In his book, Bridges uses his wealth of experience and research to explain that “all transitions, (including transitions in our work lives), are composed of 1) an ending, 2) a neutral zone, and 3) a new beginning.” He further states this is “based on a theory of personal development that views transition as the natural process of disorientation and reorientation marking the turning points of growth. Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations: Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to happen – until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpole’s tail shrinks away….” He says that the same happens in a less clear manner with people. There are “key times of development and self-renewal.” This means that throughout our lives, as many of us realize, change will happen, it is the “norm” and we have to develop ways to deal with it. This applies in our work lives as well.

One of the novel ideas that Bridges speaks about is that “it is the ending that makes the beginning possible.”  Think about it. You cannot go on to your next job without the ending of the first one.  You cannot move to your next career without the ending of the current one.  With this ending comes the psychological change that needs to be dealt with. For some people, the change is planned, and you have had the time to mentally prepare for the orientation shift that is required to move on.  In other situations, such as a layoff, the change happens, you get laid off, but, if it was sudden, you have not yet dealt with the feelings behind this transition such as the mourning of the loss of your job.

Another concept that Bridges describes that applies in search, is the fact that after the ending there is a time of “lostness” or emptiness before we get to the new beginning.  There is a lot of fear during this time. It is scary. Our ship is afloat and we are not always sure which way to go. Without realizing it, this is a very important time in our lives.  While we feel like we are floating aimlessly, there is often a lot of work that is going on in the background to prepare us for the next stage we will enter. This happens during a career transition.  It is a time of reflection, self-examination and ultimately, renewal in some fashion.

One of the important points that he brings forth in the process of work transition is that “in order to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now.”  For many people this is a very hard thing to do especially when a career transition is thrust upon them with now warning.  However, embracing the concept will go a long way to help you move forward.  When you are in career transition, now is the time to explore the possibility of moving in a completely new direction with your life’s work. However, you cannot do this is you cling too long to the old way.  You have to learn to “let go of the person you used to and then find the new person you need to become in the new situation.”

So, how do you do this?  Well, Bridges offers two questions to ask yourself. The first is “What is it time to let go in my own life right now?” The second one is “What is standing backstage, in the wings of my life, waiting to make its entrance?”  These are very powerful questions that require for some serious reflection and self-evaluation.

The book, “Transitions,” is a wonderful, easy read that can help you on the road to trying to understanding what is happening as you move through the many stages of life and career transition.  Sometimes people can do this on their own.  At other times, they need the assistance of a professional to help give them the support and guidance when they find that going it alone is just not working for them.  In the work environment, a career coach can help you through in many instances.  A certified coach has been trained to help you understand and explore the way to get through the stages to successfully reach your goal.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this posting helped you. As always, if you are struggling in search, please feel free to contact me at or 203-323-9977.

I wish you every success. Let’s get to work!




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What “Mad Men” Teaches Us About Career Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCSMadMen

This past Sunday marked the opening of the new season of the hit TV series, “Mad Men.” The title refers to Madison Avenue and its strong connection to advertising in the 1960’s, not insanity.  “Mad Men” is an incredibly well written TV show that deals with the trials and tribulations of the lives of the people involved in one high level advertising agency.

What is the connection between “Mad Men” and career search?  As I watch the show, it further underscores how important the concept of product branding is to the successful sale of the product. They painstakingly create campaigns looking for the precise slogan, gimmick or catch phrase that will make the product stand out and capture the hearts and minds of the public to bring in sales.

This same painstaking care is what it takes to run a successful career campaign.  Career search involves creating and selling your personal brand in such a way that helps you stand out and capture the attention of the recruiter, hiring manager or other professional involved in the hiring process.

It is with the same effort and intensity that advertising people use to create their campaigns that a person in job search must use to work on creating their Value Proposition, their resume, their outreach letters, interview prep, etc.  It is also with the same intensity that a person in search needs to network so that they can take qualitative steps towards securing their next position.  I mention qualitative steps because it is the quality of the work that a candidate does rather than the quantity that is what leads to success.

What are some specifics of what I am referring to?

To start, if you are in search, you must take the time to sit and reflect on the stories of your work life. Think about the different things that exemplify your skills and strengths. Once you have this straight in your mind, create a Value Proposition that reflects this information in a concise manner. Create your resume using your Value Proposition and incorporate metrics that reflect the successes that you brought in your past jobs. Pay attention to the words that you choose so that your resume does not come across as “plain Vanilla.”  Use language that is engaging so that you grab the reader and make them want to read on. Remember, you only have 15 seconds to get the person reading your resume to keep going before they say, “I have 500 other resumes in the pile. Next!”

You want to keep your network up and nurture it to be able to access the hidden job market and gain entry to the positions that never make it to the job boards and Craigslist. In addition, when you finally get called for an interview, you must prepare by learning everything there is to know about the company and what is currently happening. You want to show that you are well-versed and current about the happenings at the firm. By creating a strong, concise Value Proposition and knowing the stories of your work life, you will be able to respond with confidence to most questions that are asked of you in an interview.

By paying attention and synthesizing your ability to solve the needs of the company in a thank you note after an interview, you distinguish yourself from the crowd. And, knowing the things that are important to you during contract negotiation help to provide clarity so that you can negotiate for the best compensation package that you can get.

Like the “Mad Men” of the 1960’s, if you put as much care and detail into creating your brand for your career campaign, you will position yourself in the best way possible for success.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this helped you. As always, if you are struggling in search, please reach out to me at or 203-323-9977.

I wish you every success –



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Older Jobseekers: 4 Tips to Prepare For Career Search Success

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

Talented Business Executive!Many older workers have been shell-shocked with how hard this challenging economy has hit their demographic.   Older people aged 50 and over, have been affected by this financial crisis than ever before.  How do you navigate the waters and find the position you desire?  The following tips are geared to help older workers lessen their fears and move with confidence towards their goal.

1. Shoot for high level positions. Many older workers think that because the market is so challenging they should look at positions that are at the same or lower level than they were at before.  They let the “fear” cause them to aim too low. I say, if you have the skills, look at positions at higher levels such as Director or Vice President. These positions often seek candidates with 10-12 years or 12-15 years of experience. They are seeking the experience that older workers can bring to the table.

2. Do your research. Once you have secured your interview, make sure that you do all of your research about the company as we have discussed in past postings.  However, this time, you are going to do this research with the thought process in mind about being prepared for “older person” questions. What kinds of questions, you ask? Well, if you are changing industries, you will most likely be asked questions about how you can manage to work in a different industry. Your answer should include information on transferable skills. Showing how your skills and experience can easily bring them quality work in their industry will get them to listen and want to hear more.

3. Show you are contemporary and have kept your skills current. If you are seeking work in the same industry or even a different industry, you are going to want to stress how you will not require a lot of training and can hit the ground running. How do you do this?  You show how you have kept yourself current in everything from industry knowledge to computer skills. If you have been using or learned special software, make sure that you are up to date with the latest versions. When asked about this knowledge, provide information about lessons or classes you have taken to stay current. (See my website for Social Media Classes for Job Seekers).

It is in these discussions, as well as on your resume, that you want to exhibit your knowledge of social media.  Include what you know about and how you use social media in the answers to your question.  This shows that you are tech savvy and tech knowledge equals being contemporary.

4. Be prepared for tough questions. A common question to be prepared for is one about working with younger people.  It is not uncommon today for you to be interviewed by and working for people younger than yourself. What is the best way to negotiate a question dealing with this topic?  Let your interviewer know that you can work with anyone. Age does not matter. What is more important is that you work as a team with the goal of getting the job done well.

My favorite question that older people get asked is, “Aren’t you overqualified?”  When you get asked this question, it is your job to show the interviewer how you are the most qualified candidate for the job. As my friend Absolutely Abby often says, “Do you want a surgeon that is just qualified or one who is perfectly qualified to do your operation?”

So here you have it, 4 tips to bring success to the older jobseeker. As always, please leave me a comment and let me know if this column has helped you.

If you are struggling in search, feel free to contact me at

Every Success-


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Career Search And Preparing For Remote Interviews

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

All of your hard work has paid off and now you have been contacted to schedule an interview. In today’s job market, “the interview” has changed. Years ago, an interview was “face-to-face” at the office of the organization. Today, “the interview” starts in a remote  manner using different medium. It helps to save money and narrow the field on all sides – as you do not have to pay to travel and lose valuable time and the company does not have to spend time and money on candidates until they have really narrowed the field down.

The following are  tips of  ways to prepare for each type of remote interview:

1. The Written Interview – While this isWritten Interview not that common, a written interview starts by receiving a notification saying that the company is interested in learning more about you and asking you to sign into a site where you are to answer a series of short essays as the beginning of the interview process. This gives the recruiter a chance to see how well you write under pressure. When the skill they are seeking includes excellent written communication skills, this is a way for the recruiter to hone in on your Value Proposition and supporting stories. The way to be prepared is to have this down cold. Knowing your Value Proposition and supporting stories so that you have them “top of mind’ as you go through the job search process makes it easier to handle any type of situation that comes along such as a written interview. In this arena, in addition to writing about your stories and Value Proposition, you also have to pay attention to your grammar and spelling. As a result you need extra time for proofing. Having your information at your fingertips gives you the extra time to manage these things rather than trying to pull supporting stories out of the back recesses of your memory.

2. The Telephone Interview.  Red PhoneThe phone interview usually starts with an email requesting that you either contact an admin to set up the call or to reply back by email with the date and time that works best for you. Keep in mind that the prep work that you do can be used as you move to other phases of the interview and search process so investing time in this will save you time later.

  • Do your research. Research the company that you are interviewing with. Make sure that you have read their entire website, Google the person you will be interviewing with, look at press releases, newspaper articles and know what is going on there now.
  • Prepare your list of questions.  These may include questions that you think of as the interviewer speaks with you and things you want to know about the interview process itself such as “Is there anything that you are not clear on that we just discussed?” or “ What are the next steps?” The idea here is to get to the next step and move closer to the face-to-face interview.
  • Think about where you will conduct you interview. It needs to be done in a place where you can concentrate, with no noise or distractions with space to spread out your resume, list of questions, and note pad. You can have access to your resume and your research notes and questions. Also, you need a watch to be able to pace yourself.  The interviewer may tell you from the beginning that the entire interview may take a half hour.  You then want to watch that you are not being too long winded so that you get through all of the questions they have.
  • Other considerations.  Dress as if you were attending the real thing. This helps to set the stage for a true, business-like atmosphere. Use a landline telephone so that you are not needing to ask theLights Camera Action question, “Can you hear me now?”

3. The Video Interview – As technology keeps improving and companies are trying to save on recruiting costs, they are using the video interview more and more. This intermediary step continues to narrow the field so how do you prepare to meet your goal of getting the face-to-face interview?

  • Get the details of the event down. Who is your contact? Where is it going to be held? What are your technology needs? Are you going to Kinko’s or is this going to be done on Skype in your home? Have you confirmed the time zone and do you know the differences? Send out an email confirming all of these preliminaries the day before.
  • Prepare your materials. Do you have your Value Proposition and stories ready? Have you done your research? Refresh the part about the press releases and review the website as you never know what changes have taken place since you last looked and this may be relevant to your interview.
  • Prepare your environment. If you are interviewing off site, the area is most likely prepared. If you are interviewing at home, prepare your workspace but keep in mind that with a camera, the other party will be able to see behind you and around the sides. The area they see should be neat and clear.
  • Technology. If you use a camera and a microphone, test them to see that they are in good working order.  If you have an extra laptop or other computer, keep it ready as a backup just in case you have a technology failure.
  • Skype. Skype interviews are more common today and require a little prep work. SkypeFirst, establish a professional sounding Skype name. Make sure you have the company’s Skype information so that you can re-connect in the event that the call drops. Have a telephone ready so that you can switch at a moment’s notice if  necessary. Know what the icons on Skype look like and how to test your connection.
  • Business Attire. You will be on screen. They will be looking at what you are wearing to see that you understand the professional nature of the event. Make sure that you are professionally dressed all the way down to your shoes.
  • Mastering the visual contact. Think of this interview like a face-to-face interview. Even if you are just staring into a camera, you are not functioning in a vacuum. You need to be concerned about making eye contact, have in a smile on your face and conveying high energy and enthusiasm about the position. All of this is done while speaking clearly to convey why you are the best candidate for the job. There is a lot to concentrate on. This is why your preparation of your Value Proposition and supporting stories is so crucial. This will help to lesson your stress and allow you to focus on these ancillary details.
  • Out of the camera’s view. You can have supporting materials to help in your discussion. Your resume, research and other things can be located offsite to help you through the process.
  • Conclusion. As the interview concludes remember that you need to thank whomever you were speaking with, tell them how interested you are in the position and that you want the job.

I hope this has opened your eyes to the remote forms of interviewing and the preparation required to be successful. As always, if you are struggling with your search, please do not hesitate to contact me at or 203-323-9977.

Every success –




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Eight Tips For Organizing Your Job Search In Today’s Challenging Job Market

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS

Suit PocketThe beginning of a New Year brings with it an opportunity to clean your slate.  You can start everything fresh.  Or, if you are newly laid off as often happens at the end of the year, you will be starting from scratch in your job search.  Either way, one of the many important things to do in your search is to be organized.  Treating it like a job will go a long way towards helping you secure your next position. This posting is devoted to organizing your career campaign so that you can manage all of its moving parts resulting in functioning like a well-oiled machine!

1. Start by creating your space.You need a spot for your computer and whatever supplies are required. Think of yourself as telecommuting for a job and set the stage for productivity. Unless you work completely paper free, you will have papers that need to be organized in folders, books that you will or have read, articles, scratch copies of resumes and other things to manage. Also, you need to work in a place that is conducive to the search process so you can concentrate and be free of mess.

2. Determine your skills and strengths to prepare creation of your Value Proposition.  Think about and write down the stories of your work life to see where your skills and strengths are which proves your value to any organization that you work for.  You will need to pull them out over the course of your search to create your Value Proposition, your resume, for your letter writing campaign, phone screens interviews and many other situations.

3. Arrange your stories in a way that helps you create your Value Proposition. I often call this the “spine of your search.” You manipulate your Value Proposition for many purposes from your resume to networking meetings to interviewing and many other situations. The organization of your work life stories helps you keep them top of mind so they are at your fingertips and ready when the time calls for them.

4. Create or update your resume by coordinating the varying tools you have for this process.  I have always said that a good place to start is by looking at postings of positions that you are interested in applying for. Use word lists that you can find online to help you figure out different ways of expressing the things that you did. Keep a highlighter to use as you modify your resume so that you can highlight the changes you make as you tailor it to the postings you start to apply for.

5. While you are preparing your resume, you can also start researching the companies that you are interested in working at. You need to manage your research so that it is available to you later on when you finally are able to secure that coveted interview. In addition, you will need to be joining organizations to increase your network so the research on this needs to happen here as well.

6. So now you have arrived at the heart of your search, which is to start applying for positions, posting your resume on job boards, attending networking functions and other parts of the process. How do you keep track of all of it?  There are many ways to do it. There is the old fashioned pen and paper way. There is the very sophisticated online way by using cloud software like For those of you who are familiar with, JibberJobber is similar to this for the career search industry.  All components of your job search can be entered into your database including your networking contacts and their information. You can track your resumes, job postings and see who you know at the varying companies you look to apply to.

Another cloud service is called With Huntsy, you can keep track of all of your job postings and Huntsy will help you manage the timeline of events for the position such as which resume did you send, when is your interview, contacts with HR and all of your correspondence. With Huntsy, you can attach postings to your tool bar as you move from place to place. The Huntsy owl sits at the top in your tool bar waiting to prey on your job components.

Then, there is always creating a spreadsheet on Excel for tracking purposes.  Use different workbook sheets to manage all of the different parts of your search always making sure to include the dates of your contacts and submissions.  Create a sheet for networking, recruiters, job boards, outreach to companies, interviews and whatever else you want to track. Whatever method you choose, your goal is to be so organized that you are able to function with the parts of your search in an efficient and effective manner.

7. Design a schedule for yourself.  I have always told my clients that huddling over your computer for hours at a time will not serve you well.  This is still my mantra.  Develop a  schedule that includes computer time, networking time, family time and recreation time (and don’t forget sleep!).

8. Lastly, establish a positive attitude towards your search process so that you can overcome the tolerations and problems that drag you down.  Realize that it is not that difficult to get things going by systematizing your career campaign with the suggestions presented above. Having an organized framework goes a long way to helping overcome inertia issues that weigh you down.

So here you have eight tips to help you organize your job search. Please leave me a comment and let me know if this was helpful to you.  As always, if you need help with your search, please do not hesitate to contact me at or 203-323-7797.

I wish you every success – Let’s get to work!





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