Avoid The Slowdown: Summer Job Search Strategies

In my latest post for Time.com I cover strategies specific to the summer job search. Here is the unedited version:

It’s a myth that people don’t get hired over the summer. Yes, people are on vacation, so hiring typically slows down as interviews are harder to schedule, but people do get hired. As a job seeker, this means that the summer is a great time to rev up your search – your competition may take time off, assuming a hiring slowdown. Your hard-to-reach networking contacts may have a lighter, summer schedule and actually be reachable. Depending on your search goals, you might even have new opportunities because of the summer season. Here are three ways to tailor your job search activity for the summer:

schedule time

schedule time

Make it easy to schedule time with you

Summer is already a scheduling nightmare on the employer side because multiple vacation demands need to be considered. Make yourself readily available. Always carry an updated calendar with you — sync your phone with your main computer if you keep calendars in different places; sync your family calendar with your business one. You might also try an online scheduler, like TimeTrade or ScheduleOnce, where you can provide a link for the other person to see your availability and schedule directly.

Incorporate summer’s unique value proposition into your search activity

Propose outdoor networking meetings to take advantage of the warm weather. Reconnect with lost networking contacts by asking about vacation plans or sharing exciting plans of your own – the conversation may turn back to business but in the meantime at least you’ve kept in touch. If you have kids at sleepaway camp, take advantage of the quiet time by adding evening networking events. Many people work better when it’s brighter so exploit the longer summer days and get up earlier to put in extra research time and stay out later to add in more networking.

Pitch for summer “internships”

Many companies offer a summer internship program to take advantage of the off season for students. But with more of the workforce now in freelance and temporary roles, experienced professionals should consider tapping into summer opportunities for their own employment prospects. After all a company might need vacation coverage for experienced employees that is beyond the scope of what an intern can provide. Or the company may want to get a jumpstart on a longer-term project during the lighter summer season and could use extra experienced hands to get started. If you have only been focused on permanent, full-time jobs, consider adding consulting services to your pitch.

If you’re just starting your search, don’t assume the summer is too slow to gain traction. Use the summer to research company targets, update your marketing material, and rekindle personal contacts so that when the busy fall season hits you’re ready to move quickly.

If you’re in the busy part of a search and the summer vacation scheduling has put a delay in otherwise fast-moving interviews, don’t get discouraged. Check in regularly with whomever is coordinating your interviews — HR and/or the hiring manager. Give them lots of availability, and keep them posted if other prospective employers are moving faster than they are (employers are competitive and will not want to lose you to their competitors).

Regardless of where you are in your job search, summer is still a good time to stay active and make progress.

Networking Lessons Learned From Meeting A Superstar

Having lived in NYC my whole life, I have had my share of celebrity run-ins: riding an elevator with Jake Gyllenhaal; squeezing through a small restaurant foyer with Lorne Michaels, David Spade and the late Chris Farley; catching a wave from Chris Rock as he blared loud music from a bright silver convertible with the top down (on 23rd Street of all mundane places). I am not the star-struck type for entertainment personalities, but being a nerd for all things personal finance, I did get star-struck last week. I had a 30-minute, one-to-one phone interview with nine-time NY Times best-selling financial author, David Bach. I wrote up our conversation for my Forbes column on Financial Mistakes Even High-Earners Make. But here are three networking lessons I learned from this encounter:

People are accessible

Is there a role you’ve been eyeing? You may be able to reach the head of that group, Is there a company you want to do business with? You may be able to reach the CEO. David Bach actually reached out to me. Do not assume that someone is too senior or established to connect with you. Who is on your dream list to meet?

It’s always a two-way dialogue

David Bach needs PR for his latest ventures and I write for financial publications, so the connection makes sense. You will have to have a “reason” to connect with the other person. You also need to have something to say. For my Bach interview, I prepared a list of questions and shared these in advance. I referenced his books that I read. The prep work, advance notice, and existing research made it clear that I wasn’t going to waste his time. How can you relay to senior, busy contacts that you have something to say?

The best action is taking action

I myself have written about how the basics are overlooked. David Bach reiterated this from a financial perspective when he relayed how executives running million-dollar and billion-dollar businesses often didn’t have a financial plan for themselves. It’s not a complicated investment strategy that’s needed, but getting started on investing in the first place! Of course it does matter how effective your actions are, but for many people getting started with any action and doing some activity on a regular basis is what is most needed. Are you taking action toward your goal?

Have you ever met up close someone you admired from afar? What happened? What did you learn? Tell us about it!


Personal Finance Impacts Professional Success: Financial Mistakes Even Smart People Make

This post is tackling personal finance because it impacts your career. For my Forbes column, I have a running theme that features mistakes even smart professionals make – communication mistakes, networking mistakes…and now Financial Mistakes:

I’ve been lucky that I enjoy all things personal finance. While I was a music major in college, I also doubled in economics, and my piano teacher was an investor. We spent my lessons talking about the financial markets. So I had a running start in my 20’s with good financial habits. This helped my career dramatically over time because my solid cash foundation enabled me to absorb career moves that required extended periods of time living with less income (like taking a few years off to act and launching a business). Now that I coach people, often on career change, that bugaboo of money comes into play as smart, experienced professionals are stymied in their career moves by financial obstacles. Here are five ways that even smart people get tripped up by money:

Not prioritizing money

When I graduated college in my 20’s I wanted my own apartment in NYC, and I didn’t have parents, grandparents or the rich aunt to subsidize me. So I picked a career that was at the intersection of my interests AND my target compensation. Cold hard cash was high on my decision criteria, and it was the best move I made. I enjoyed that first career even more because I could afford my life outside of my career, and years later I could take more risks and even take time off because I prioritized the money at the time I didn’t have much. That isn’t to say that you only prioritize money. But I hear from so many people who feel guilty talking about compensation requirements or taking a job because of the pay. Depending on your circumstances, it could be a great move. You can keep track of your money metrics using a home-grown Excel spreadsheet or online resources, such as Personal Capital or Mint.

ask for a promotion

Failing to negotiate

I have recruited for over 15 years at all levels and in a variety of industries, and I have NEVER had an employer pull an offer because someone negotiated. The worst thing a company can do is say No. But you will still have the initial offer, and you will likely get a better offer, if you ask. When I had my second child, I wanted to work part-time AND continue my creative pursuits AND move industries AND maintain a six-figure salary. I created a situation that accommodated that – it took networking to identify a special opportunity, opportunism to jump on special openings where I could add unique value, and negotiation to craft a role that works. But it’s doable, if you dare to ask and when you ask the right way.

Setting expectations too low

As per the above example, I didn’t buy into the assumption that you have to take a pay cut after a maternity leave, or you have to take a cut to get a flexible schedule, or you have to take a cut when you change industries. That is not necessarily the case if you can show you are adding value equivalent to the compensation you’re seeking. Don’t assume you can’t negotiate or you have to take a lower salary or you can’t ask for flexible arrangements because you may set the bar too low and be undercompensated unnecessarily.

Setting expectations too high

That said, there have been times I have taken a cut. When I went from corporate work to acting, I didn’t expect (and didn’t achieve) my six-figure corporate salary. In fact, I went from six figures in corporate to three figures (yes, I earned $300 in my first year of acting). I did a lot of free work to build up my resume. I paid out a lot in classes, mailings, marketing, union dues and more before ever seeing a return on my investment. As a recruiter and as a coach I have seen candidates with expectations completely misaligned with roles they are seeking because they are using metrics from a flush industry to a lower-paying industry, or from an established company to a start-up, or going from a management role to an individual contributor. When you set the bar too high, you appear as if you’re not serious about making a change or you’re not self-aware enough about your value.

Not realizing that personal finance impacts the professional

Employers may run your credit as part of the employment application process. This is particularly true for finance positions, but even for other positions some employers feel that the way you manage your money is an indication of character, discipline, integrity and other attributes desirable in a good hire. If you don’t manage your credit, then you’re not fully managing your career. I check my credit three times per year for free. I use AnnualCreditReport.com to access my credit report from each of the different reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. I do this three times a year, so I only have four months in-between checking, a short enough time to catch mistakes or identity theft before it becomes a big problem. I use all three agencies (one every four months) so I can make sure each agency is correct (they are separate entities). This is not a difficult process because I set my calendar every year to remind me to check my credit. When it’s time to check my credit it shows up on my calendar and I just do it. A few minutes a year is all it takes to ensure my file is in good standing, so if any employer ever did pull my credit, I know where I stand.

Do you a financial hit or miss to share? Let us know about it!

Ten Fun Entrepreneur Quotes

I have been profiling a series of real-life career change stories for Forbes.com, many of whom are entrepreneurship stories. The insights are invaluable, but the direct quotes are the most fun. Here are ten of my favorite quotes from these profiles and other entrepreneurs:

Put it this way, when other girls had their Barbies in wedding dresses my Barbie was in a Hillary Clinton-type of pantsuit with a little briefcase. – Susanne Norwitz on how she always wanted to be an entrepreneur

I wish I knew that everything takes twice as long as you thought it would.  My passion sometimes overpowered my patience.  Many first-time entrepreneurs think they can bite off more than they can chew. – Otto Cedeno on what he wished he knew when he started his entrepreneurial journey

My courage comes from wanting to live a fulfilled life and being able to have a legacy, something tangible for my family and provide inspiration for others that may feel stuck. – Tiannia Barnes on how she persists when things get tough

I view entrepreneurship as a state of mind not defined by the organizational size or industry. – Mark Prygocki on the entrepreneurial benefits of his longtime big corporate experience

You’ve got to lose your ego. No matter how naturally smart you are or how successful you were in a previous career, there is a tremendous learning curve involved in major career transitions and you have to be strong enough to risk looking foolish and inexperienced.. – Susanne Rhow on the realities of career change

I am the entrepreneur who comes up with the wild and crazy idea and then dumps it on people to let them figure it out – Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

Have you asked for help in your venture?

If you’re not doing something crazy, you’re doing the wrong things – Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google

Where can you get crazier in your business?

Adaptability and execution are what matter, not timing – Tim Westergren, Co-Founder of Pandora

If there is no perfect time anyway, what will you launch today?

I used to think the Corcoran Group was my golden goose. Once I sold it, I realized I was the golden goose – Barbara Corcoran, Founder of Corcoran Group Real Estate

Barbara Corcoran and Caroline Ceniza-Levine at the 2012 World of Business Ideas Conference

Barbara Corcoran and Caroline Ceniza-Levine at the 2012 World of Business Ideas Conference

Are you taking care of yourself?

Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. – Warren Buffett, Founder of Berkshire Hathaway

Are you taking care of your relationships?

Do you have a favorite quote I missed? Please share it!

Resume Tips: How To Get Yours To The Top Of The Pile

My latest job search advice post for Money.com shares resume tips on getting yours to the top of the pile and read by recruiters and employers. Here is the unedited version:

Job seekers fear the resume robots – the automatic filtering of resumes that prevents your application for even being read. First of all, the good news: I have recruited for brand-name companies and cutting edge start-ups, and I have never seen a filtering tool that is so good that recruiters rely on it 100%. Therefore, there is no one magic password that will get you past an auto resume screen, and you don’t have to worry about being left out while everyone else who knows the magic password skirts by you.

However, now for the bad news: recruiters don’t spend that much more time reviewing your resume than an automatic filter would. Given the pace of recruiting and how many searches a typical recruiter is inundated with, unsolicited resumes get seconds of attention, if any at all. Many times there are so many resumes coming in that a recruiter will prioritize the ones that get referred or that s/he filters out manually. To this end, you still need to get past these filters (albeit more likely a human filter, not a robot). Here are three ways to adapt your resume to get it to the top of the pile:

Include keywords

Whether it’s by automatic or human filter, if a job opening calls for a specific skill or experience that is easily summarized into a keyword, you better believe the recruiter will search by that keyword. When I did an animation search, I used “Aftereffects” as a filter because that was the software of choice and the candidate absolutely needed that skill. When I hired at the executive level for a cultural institution, I used the sector expertise (American art) as the basis for my keywords because, while the overall skill set would be quite varied, the ultimate hire needed a specialization that could be summarized in a few keywords.

Keyword searches are mostly relied on for those openings with narrowly defined criteria. To ensure your resume gets selected, include keywords that tightly describe your skills, expertise, and experience. All resumes can use specificity — technical skills, languages, industry buzzwords (e.g., Big Data), certifications (e.g., CPA), and sector expertise (e.g., American impressionism). Thus, keywords should be in all resumes, not just because they are searchable, but because they are descriptive and descriptive resumes attract human readers as well.

Put findings into context

Even when a keyword search is first used, the recruiter will then filter through the shortlist of those keyword-selected resumes. If it’s not apparent why the keyword appears – say you list Aftereffects as a skill but it doesn’t otherwise relate to anything else in your resume – you still may not get called in. As a recruiter, I would not only want a skill or buzzword listed but I would want to see how it is incorporated in your career to date. Are you just tech savvy in general, so picked up Aftereffects along with a bevy of other software? That type of diverse tech knowledge may be great for some jobs but not if I need an Aftereffects specialist.

You might think that getting noticed by a recruiter is always positive. But if you don’t want to be an Aftereffects specialist, or if your level of skill is not competitive to be a specialist, then it’s a waste of time for both you and me. You want to be called in for the right positions. Make sure that you include keywords for roles that you want and put such keywords into the broader context of your experience so that it’s clear what roles you want and are qualified for.

Make the resume easy to skim

You might think that all this talk about context means a recruiter is sitting with your resume and considering it at length. Whether by auto filter or human filter, resumes are read in seconds – there is just too much volume to do otherwise. Therefore, you want to make yours easy on the eyes of recruiters who will be reviewing dozens or hundreds of resumes in close succession.

  • Use at least 10-point font.
  • Use bold, italics and underlining to emphasize, but use these sparingly, or else everything runs together.
  • Keep the structure parallel – dates on the same side (left or right, just consistent); companies, geographies and titles in the same place and in the same format – so the eye can easily jump around as needed.
  • Prioritize white space and margins because it makes what information you do include easier to read. When resumes are too crowded, the reader might miss something or skip reading it altogether.

There is no one word that will ensure your resume gets read. That should be good news to you because it means that not everyone is right for every role and there is some method to the madness of hiring! So if you want to use one word to guide your resume writing, then think “keyword” or “context” or “readability”. If you can include the keywords that matter to the role you want in a context that shows you fit that role and in a readable manner that lets the recruiter discover your value in seconds, then you improve your chances of getting your resume to the top of the pile. Remember that an employee referral always helps, so don’t stop your networking in pursuit of the perfect resume.



Real-Life Career Change Stories Prove You Have Many Options

Tiannia and shoes

If you’re feeling stuck, know that there are many options to make a career change. Here are five real-life examples of people from their 20’s to their 50’s making big transitions:

Do what you know just for another industry

Susanne Rhow took her established career in luxury goods marketing to high-end real estate sales. She did not just do what most other agents do. Instead, she used her savvy with customer segmentation to carve out a niche for herself. Where else can you use your functional expertise? If you like what you do but just don’t like where you are, switch companies or industries.

Build the new career on the side

Tiannia Barnes is a single mom and already in a high-paying industry and function (IT program management). But she has entrepreneurial aspirations for sTiannia and shoeshoes. So she does both IT and shoe design building her business while keeping her day job. What can you do as a side experiment before making a big leap? If a single mom finds the time, clearly there is time!







Make a clean break

Otto Cedeno took the exact opposite route from Tiannia Barnes, quitting outright from his Director role in online production to open a taco restaurant. Cedeno mOtto Cedeno by Ric Agudelooved back in with his parents and took consulting work to make ends meet. What sacrifices are you willing to make? What resources can you tap? You don’t have to move back in with family, but it helps to know if that’s even an option and to ask yourself how deep you’re willing and able to cut back.






Buy a business

Mark Prygocki had the means to buy his career change, purchasing a donut franchise. Franchising is one way to participate in an entrepreneurial venture but with the resources of a larger company. (Another risk mitigation possibility is if you work at a larger company and can convince your employer to fund your start-up idea.) Can you buy or joint venture with an existing business? If the idea of building from scratch is overwhelming, your side activity might be as simple as setting aside a savings fund with the goal of purchasing a business. Even if you decide to launch from scratch or make your next move as an employee, you’ll have reserves to fund that career change.



Change your life, not your career

Having a big dream doesn’t mean itTrevor Shane needs to be fulfilled as your profession. You can write a novel and have a full career outside of writing. Trevor Shane has written three books while working as a lawyer in the hedge fund industry. He credits his very different day job with giving him more freedom to be creative – he doesn’t have to worry about making money from writing so he can just write. His writing routine keeps him up well past midnight three nights a week but it’s a lifestyle change, not a career change. How can you accommodate more fulfillment in your life without having to change careers?







Have we missed a career change strategy that has worked for you? Let us know about it!

Small Company v. Big Company: How To Decide The Right Company Size For You

This career advice post on company size as a career decision factor originally appeared in my career column for Money.com and Time.com as Fortune 500 or Startup? How to Tell What Size Company is Right for You. This is the unedited version:

Is it better to work with a Fortune 500 company or a start-up? A company with thousands of employees or one small enough that the executive team knows the junior staff by name? How do you know when a big company is too bureaucratic or when a small company is too risky?

Size matters when it comes to selecting the right employer for you. What’s tricky is that while company size does influence your career path, day-to-day role, and work environment, it isn’t the only factor. Therefore, you make generalizations when you judge a company by size. A big company isn’t necessarily bureaucratic – it might have retained a collaborative, entrepreneurial culture. A small company isn’t inherently risky – maybe they offer you an upfront guarantee or they recently got funded.

Here are six career planning considerations that are influenced by size, and the pros and cons of small and large employers:


In general, big companies will have more resources. This could mean more or better office supplies and equipment, professional development and training, and a more comfortable work environment. This also means resources for your particular job – budget, direct reports, administrative support. It’s not necessarily true that small companies will have less (and big companies might be able to do more but be stingy) so you still need to check this during the hiring process.


If big companies have more staff, it’s more likely the staff will have a more tightly defined (i.e., smaller) scope of responsibilities. This is a good thing if you want that structure. But if you want variety and a chance to work across functions or touch a project from start-to-finish, then a smaller company might be a better fit. Again, size influences your scope but doesn’t determine it 100%. When you are interviewing, ask, don’t assume, what your responsibilities will be, who you will be interacting with, and what decision-making authority you will have.

career advancementAdvancement

In a big company, there is a bigger infrastructure, perhaps even more geographies or industry areas where business is conducted. This typically means you have Internal mobility options – the chance to move all around the company – from the New York office to the London office, from serving financial services clients to media clients, from working in sales to working in marketing. That said, small companies offer advancement via upward mobility. You take on more responsibility because you have to. While the small company may not have a London office to send you to, you may be asked to open it. As you can see, big and small companies offer advancement opportunity. Ask about career growth specifically when you interview.


Small companies are typically less well-known than bigger companies. A brand name does convey advantages when people glance at your resume or you introduce yourself as coming from Goldman Sachs (as opposed to Boutique Bank WHO?). That said, branding is more than a name. Some people hear big company and assume slow and not innovative. If your brand hinges on being seen as leading-edge or entrepreneurial, then the smaller the company the more consistent that is with your brand. In addition, a company might be small but have big name clients. If you work for a small company that serves the Fortune 500 or other brand names, naming the clients is a way for you to get that pedigree on your resume or in your pitch without leaving your small employer.


Big companies can afford to pay more, but they might feel like they don’t have to because of their brand names and better resources. Small companies might be limited on base salary but might offer equity participation or profit-sharing. Compensation is tough to generalize. Don’t undersell yourself to a small company by assuming you need to take less. Don’t get overly aggressive with a big company and automatically negotiate for the top end of your range.


Big companies have more people to connect to but they are more dispersed, and you will have to be proactive about reaching out. Small companies have fewer people to add to your network but it may be easier to get to know people and therefore have deeper connections. As you interview, recognize there are advantages and disadvantages at both ends of the size spectrum. Focus on your day-to-day colleagues, senior leadership, and overall culture and how all of these fit with you, regardless of size.



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