Career Advice: Don't Sound, Like, Totally Stupid on the Job Hunt

Five tips to help you make the right impression on interviewers.

By JoAnn Hines, PharmaManufacturing.com’s resident career expert

Have you done your spring (professional) cleaning yet? Do you have solid career plans for the balance of 2005? Now is a good time to get started. It’s also a good time to spruce up the language on your resume, and polish up your personal sales pitch.

Here are five questions to ask to see if you are language-ready and presentable for the job market:
  • How dated is the language on your resume and professional materials? Resumes today are nothing like those of the past. Yours needs to be current and catchy; if not, it will immediately send a negative impression about your lack of "contemporary-ness.” Does it sound professional by today’s standards? Are you using current, contemporary lingo and buzzwords? When was the last time you spent time assessing the rest of your personal portfolio? I know it’s hard to think about those aspects of your career, but believe me its time well spent.

  • Can you put together a coherent sentence without using the word “like”? If not, you better begin to practice your pitch. Start with a written a paragraph about what you have accomplished, and what you have to offer. Read it over and over. Does it make sense? Does it grab your attention? Does it compel people to ask more? If not, try different versions, substitute words, refine and hone your core message so you sound credible and believable. Action words are really important you want to convey an image. If you need help, get a thesaurus and look for synonyms of the words you plan to use in your pitch. Finally, practice. Then practice some more. Make sure to take out the “like” and “umm” in each sentence.

  • Are you good at small talk? This is a great way to open a dialogue or keep one going. A surefire tip for small talk success is to find something in the news that’s not too political or controversial but has a broad-based appeal. Look for a topic that will elicit a response. Just pull a few ideas from this morning’s news: beached whale, erupting volcano . . .

  • In a chance meeting with someone important, do you sound like a bumbling fool? It’s time to fix that flaw. All it takes is practice. Find a friend or colleague and ask them to start a conversation on a subject of their choice. After a few minutes, get them to critique what you said. Were you interesting? Did you talk too long or sound boring? Did they want to keep the conversation going? Take their advice to heart. Practice some more, then find another friend. Improvement is incremental.

  • How’s your first impression? Have you heard someone else’s professional appearance or communication skills criticized lately? What was the nature of the criticism? Did they look slovenly or unkempt? Were they dressed inappropriately? Did they sound incoherent or uneducated? Pay attention to things you don’t like in others, then look for them in yourself. Take cues from confident, professional people as well. What attributes do you like? Are they funny? Brilliant? Compassionate? Find the good things, and make them yours, too.

JoAnn Hines "packages" people. She makes it easy for others to transform their careers in much the same way she did. Her "how to" workbooks, informative articles, and tutorials demonstrate the steps to take career and professional development to the next level. Hines believes in the power of her experience and advice. As a result, much of her advice is free or is offered for a nominal charge.

For a complete primer on updating your bio and yourself, order "Packaging Yourself" on CD. No one can promote you better that you can. What’s your game plan to improve your persona? These tools will show you the way to showcase your talent. Send $9.95 + $3.95 S&H to Women in Packaging, Inc., 4290 Bells Ferry Rd., Ste 106-17, Kennesaw, GA 30144. For more tips on your 30 seconds of fame, email the coach at pkgcoach@aol.com. Ask for "How To Prepare an Elevator Pitch" and "How To Make the Most of your First 30 Seconds."

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