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The Monkey – Flexibility In The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 17, 2016 in Interviewing Skills

BranchFlexibility. Flexible Schedule. Flex-Time. What does that mean? Why does it matter?

Well, if you are a monkey swinging from tree to tree in the jungle, flexibility is key. You need to be flexible in order to grab the next branch to continue on your way and you need the branch to be flexible enough to hold your weight or it will snap.

In the workplace, or during an interview, flexibility is a far different thing. 14 years ago, when I first started in recruiting, I had never heard the term “flexibility” or “flexible hours” or “flexible work schedule” come up in conversation. I did hear candidates ask about the ability to leave work early if there was an emergency such as when a child was sick or the ability to work from home during a snow day.

Today, people think that they are entitled to work when they want, where they want, and how they want. They disguise this entitlement by using the term “flexible schedule” which sounds innocent enough, but is a loaded term. If the employer is not able to meet their demands, then that employer is “inflexible” and the company is potentially labeled as a bad place to work.

This week, I had a candidate who asked the client during the interview if she could work a “flexible schedule”. This question was asked during the first 5 minutes of her interview. The client was quite surprised by her question and asked for clarification. With a straight face, the candidate said, “I need to leave by 3pm each day.” The client was shocked. The client later related to me that she would not have minded a discussion on work hours later in the interview process to address any special needs that the candidate may have, but the timing and the severity of the restriction on time from their core business hours instantly put the candidate in an unfavorable light in her eyes.

Work is just that, work. You are not doing the company a favor by working there. You are applying to a position to gain employment to earn a living. You are offering your expertise to solve a business issue or need for the company. They do not owe you anything. It’s work for pay.

The appropriate time to discuss any special needs that you may have is not in the first 5 minutes of your first interview. The best time to approach the topic of “flexibility” is during the salary negotiation phase of the hiring process. Even then, you need to have realistic expectations and stay flexible yourself. If a company has core hours, see if there are alternative solutions you can explore before asking your employer or potential employer to change their policy to accommodate your needs. See if you can carpool to use HOV lanes or if a neighbor can watch your children for an hour after school so that you do not need to leave early. When all else fails, then approach your employer. Remember that you also earn trust over time with an employer. Often, flexibility is given to trusted employees after they have proven themselves in their current role. You should not expect to be given the same consideration right away when starting a new job as employees who have been with the company for a long time.

Flexibility is a 2-way street. Consider your request for “flexibility” before you ask for it, or you just might find yourself falling from that branch that you were so sure could hold you.

This guest post was contributed by Jake Hanson of the Merito Group.

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The Polar Bear Cub – Life Skills For Graduates

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Apr 15, 2016 in Career Path, Interviewing Skills, Job Search

Polar BearThe hope of many college seniors is to quickly land a post-grad entry level position with their first choice company, doing what they majored in, with a competitive salary, and opportunities for professional development. The reality is quite different for many hopefuls.

A polar bear mother spends a few months of the year in a den with her newborn cubs. When the cubs are larger and stronger, they are able to leave the den and walk around. The cubs are glued to their mother’s side for the next few months playfully imitating her hunting habits in preparation for later life. For life after college, many graduation seniors are woefully unprepared as they leave the protective den of their alma mater.

Carolyn Thompson of Merito Group, and author of Resumazing – Ten Easy Steps to a Perfect Resume, touched on some of the more significant challenges that the 2016 class of graduating college students face when they begin to look for job opportunities in her interview with David Rawles, host of Career Solutions Radio.

You can listen to the interview here.

One of the most underused resources on a college campus, Carolyn points out, is the career center. Many students don’t even know where it is and once you graduate, its resources will no longer be available to you. The career center can help you figure out your value proposition and connect you with employers hiring for the skills you have. They also have information on employers that recruit on campus most frequently. While you are still near the den, utilize the resources available for you.

The worst thing that many students realize at graduation is that they did not get any work experience at all and have nothing on their resume. “Any job is better than no job.” Carolyn says. You are developing a history of reliability and dependability by having a regular responsibility outside of school. You can also volunteer or take an unpaid internship to get experience and references. For instance, if you are working in a bar as an accounting major, the bar is still a business that has to do bookkeeping and taxes. Volunteer doing small tasks for them if you are having trouble finding a job in your major or field. Take a lesson from the polar bear cubs and get the experience you need before graduation without the stress of needing the skills to survive.

For all of you graduating seniors in the Metro DC area, APPLY HERE.

To help prepare in the next couple of months before graduation while you are still warm in the den (besides a visit to your career center), spruce up your resume with these tips from Carolyn:

  • Make sure your contact information on your resume is accurate. Typos in your email and cell phone number are very common mistakes.
  • Include at least your zip code in your contact information. Locality can play an important role in certain positions and your resume might not come up in searches.
  • Add a description of the companies you worked for (i.e. public or private, number of employees, revenue – whatever is relevant to the industry).
  • Bullet point your accomplishments outside of your job description so they stand out and set you apart – what you made, saved, or achieved in the role. All polar bears are white to blend in with the snow, but here you need to standout!
  • Write your skills together on your resume so they are easily found and can be reviewed quickly. (Technical skills, licenses, etc.)
  • Make sure the skills you include are relevant to the job you are applying for. Saying you have your real estate license takes up space if you don’t need it for the job.

(Editor’s tip – if you worked through a temp agency, remember to note that on your resume so your employer can check your background more efficiently)

For those young entrepreneurs out there: Carolyn tells a story of a young person who ran his own lawn care business in college. LISTEN HERE to find out how she rewrote his resume to help him land a position as a financial analyst after graduation.

One thing to note for your job search, Carolyn mentions, is that small to mid-size companies have more flexibility in a single position to allow you to learn and do more.  A lot of grads are attracted by marque name companies, but they might not get to do much in the role in such a large organization.

In the interview, David Rawles asks Carolyn about what she thinks is the biggest myth that many students may be thinking as they enter the workforce. Carolyn replies that some people think their first job dictates their future, but this is not the case. If you don’t land your dream job right away, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen later. Many people don’t get the job they thought they wanted and even those who do get their first choice may realize that it’s not for them and change. There is more than one ice floe in the arctic!

For more information about Career Solutions Radio with David Rawles click here.

-Lindsay Sellner, editor

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The Beasts – How To Crack An Interview In One Of The Giants In The Industry

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 5, 2016 in Interviewing Skills

EagleGetting an interview call is one thing and being successful is another thing. Everyone who has appeared for an interview knows this. It is a dream come true for anyone who successfully cracks an interview in one of the giants in the industry and start a career in Microsoft, Google, etc. We can always compare the competition involved in getting a job to that of the ways of the jungle. You need to be a powerful or a cunning one according to the situation and pounce on the prey (read job opportunity) at the right time.

Here this article will provide a view on how an interviewee can behave like a beast of the jungle to prey on a job opportunity with success. Are you going to be an opportunist or force your way to the job? Let us look at some of the ways how you can achieve it:

Be a juggernaut like a rhino

When it comes to interviews you will need to just focus on a certain goal and move rapidly towards it. In other words you need to be a juggernaut and sweep away all other candidates with your expertise. You cannot be viewed as a weak one when interviewing for one of the biggest companies in the world. They are going to grill you with some of the toughest answers that you will come across. So you need to move forward fast and without backing down.

Roar like a lion

Interviewers are going to intimidate you with some of the toughest problems and you need to let them know that you are the best suited candidate for the job. Just as the roar of a lion is distinguishable from the rest, which makes it king of the jungle, you will need to voice your skills loud enough (metaphorically) to let the interviewer know that you can do the job perfectly. Let them know that you are going to be majestic in your field.

Be cunning like a fox

Sometimes force simply does not work; you need to be careful, cunning and dodgy like the fox. If you are asked questions that seem complex, think before answering and be clever (innovative), which will give you an edge over the other candidates. Remember sometimes you will even need to dodge an answer if you are not too sure and this requires skills which you can acquire by preparing well for the interviews. Check out the type of questions that have been asked in the past and prepare accordingly.

Swoop on an opportunity like an eagle

Sometimes you will be given a hint or a glimpse that the job is yours for the taking but the interviewer is expecting more from you. In such cases you should know when to make the swoop and let him know why you are the best person for the job with clear reasons and how you are going to be successful. Good candidates know when to make the kill for the job. In simple they know when to give the right answer and how it will count.

Move fast like a cheetah

In a modern workplace, the candidates need to be fast-paced and easily adapt to the situations around them. You will also have to be a fast-learner as the competition is rising and professionals have to keep abreast of the latest technologies. These are things that the interviewer also look for in a candidate while offering them the job.

Overall you will need to be a powerful beast of a candidate to force your way into the job, when you are interviewing for a position in one of the best companies in the industry

This Guest Post was contributed by Hasib. Hasib is a professional writer working with one of the top job sites in India. He often writes articles related to interview preparations and also helps professionals in making their career decisions. He is an avid reader and passionate about the beautiful game of football. Reach him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Cat – Herding vs. Teamwork

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 11, 2015 in Executive Coaching

Cat3You may have heard the phrase “managing [x group] is like herding cats.” While a group may exist with shared goals it, like the territorial cat, may not collaborate as a high performing team even if they are familiar with its members. The essence of high performing teams is collaborative independence and participative leadership but the wild cat, while independent, is not known for its teamwork.

All teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. Next time you find yourself herding cats in a group, use these characteristics of cohesive, high performing teams:

  • Members of a high performing team have complementary, yet unique, skills.
  • The team as a strong group identity which can be underlined with special names or methods of identifying the group (such as uniforms/shirts/pins/Internet groups).
  • The members maintain a clear understanding of both the importance of the work, their individual role, and how it relates to overall goal achievement.
  • Members have the authority to act autonomously and with discretion to complete their necessary tasks. This doesn’t mean they aren’t supervised, rather it means they are properly empowered to take risks.
  • Members believe success is achievable as a group and are individually passionate about the results and accountable for their own performance.
  • Members treat each other with respect and sidebar conversations that are dissenting or subversive to the goal.
  • Underachievement, or social loafing, is not tolerated in the team. They establish minimum standards for performance or level of effort and members who are deemed ineffective or disruptive are eliminated.
  • They set their own goals, rules, schedules and norms for behaviors and follow them.
  • Use democratic decision making and leadership is participative.
  • Evenly divide the work space and level of effort.

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The Tiger – Bounding Over The Interview Questions

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 3, 2014 in Interviewing Skills

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Interviewing Questions Series: 7-8 of 29 Tiger2

Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.

Would you be prepared to move?

When you are interviewing for a job that requires relocation, say “yes.”

If you applied to the position knowing that relocation would be required, it will usually be discussed in detail after the offer. Despite the fact that there are a lot of steps that will need to be accomplished for that to occur, the interview is not the time to discuss them – save that for after you have received the offer. Bombarding the interviewer with too much detail about all the things you will need to do to get moved and settled may actually be a deciding factor on who they choose, so when asked this up front, just say you will be able to relocate and leave the planning and discussion until after you have accepted the offer.

What is your anticipated salary?”

Start with a discussion of the cash you have received in your last position. Many discussions about stock options get complicated and the first or second interview is not the time to get into those details. Options are only as good as the cash you can or have received for them so make sure you know what your grants were and what that immediate or near term value is. Preparing a spreadsheet is a good idea in case you need it.

No matter what the total compensation is that you are looking for, let them know you are open their best offer. All companies have different pay and incentive pay plans that are pretty consistent across the board and the larger the company, the more consistency they strive to achieve. You could unwittingly under- or overprice yourself by bundling your base and bonuses together in a lump number so make sure you break that out so they have a firm understanding of the components of your previous pay.

Another thing to consider: Health insurance paid on your behalf is not generally used to negotiate more cash up front. Just because you don’t need the plan now doesn’t mean you might not need it later. While it may seem like a good idea to ask for $2k more per year since you won’t be using the benefits up front, it won’t usually work. If you need to initiate the plan later, they most likely would not reduce your pay so it’s best to just leave it on the table.

Never lie about your previous compensations. It will be verified.

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The Jungle Zip-Line: A Fresh Look At Goal Setting

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 24, 2013 in Executive Coaching

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It’s that time of year again!

Are you ready to set goals for 2013? I have always looked forward to goal setting. It keeps me focused and moving forward in a positive manner on a definite path. This year, however, I have a new thought about my goal setting thanks to Janet Sernack, CEO of ImagineNation.

I found Janet in my end-of-year quest to catch up on CEU’s in order to renew my ICF credential. It was quite by chance, in fact. Janet was one of the only people offering a class with a good number of credits to help me catch up; so I registered. The last thing I could have thought as I pushed send on the form was how much of an impact Janet would have on how I viewed things.

Have you ever been to a large park or resort that offered zip-line rides? Have you ever taken advantage of the thrilling recreational activity? A zip-line, “also known as a death slide, flying fox, zip wire, aerial runway, or aerial ropeslide” is a pulley suspended on a cable mounted on an incline. After you are strapped to the cable and pulley (with a helmet – safety first!), you step from the high platform to be propelled to the bottom of the inclined cable by gravity. It is often used as a form of entertainment, but it can also be a functional means of accessing remote areas, such as a rainforest canopy. The jungle, with its mountains and high trees, is a popular destination for zip line enthusiasts. The anticipation of the adrenaline rush as you climb to the top platform and connect to the line, the breath you hold in as you step from your solid perch to fly over tree tops with the loud whirring of the pulley in your ears, the only thing connecting you to the line keeping you from plummeting to the forest floor below, knowing all along you will arrive safely to the platform on other side.

Do you watch as other riders fly down the incline? Some people are holding tightly onto the line that dangles them from the cable with their eyes clenched shut, and others are laughing with joy. Many people put their arms up in the air to feel the full thrill of the ride. Which are you? Are you holding onto things because it’s the pattern you are accustomed to or will you throw your hands in the air and see if the safety harness really works?

This brings me to my goal setting. Many of us have learned the art of SMART goal setting and in fact I wrote about it earlier this year. I enrolled in Janet’s program because I needed CEU’s and was intrigued by the name she created, ImagineNation, which is telltale to Janet’s focus on creating innovative thinking. By letting go of ideas I hold on to as truths, I can open up space for new ideas that I never before imagined. Janet challenges me when I tell her why something is the way it is, “What if you let go of that?  What if you put your hands up instead of holding on?”

Instead of my goals being entirely about what I am going to accomplish this year, I am going to challenge myself to let go of something that I am holding onto. An idea, a predisposition that something is the way it is because that’s just reality, is really not true. It’s my reality because I believe it, but maybe there is a new even better reality out there that I haven’t discovered because I am so engrained in my truths.

My goals will still be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), but for the first time, they will also be about something I am NOT going to do instead of a milestone to hit. Which is a milestone in itself, right?

Think about what you can let go of this year…and enjoy your goal setting!

You can connect with Janet via LinkedIn at http://il.linkedin.com/in/janetsernack

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The Terrain – Guiding the Graduates

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 11, 2012 in Executive Coaching, Job Search

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I remember it like it was yesterday:  crossing the stage, shaking the Dean’s hand, smiling for the cameras, and feeling ready to take on the world.  Now, I see my friends’ children taking part in the same ritual. These graduates will come home after their graduation parties and beach vacations to find jobs, but will instead find that they are woefully unprepared to navigate the competitive job terrain that holds their fate in its hands.

A recent article in the Huffington Post stated half of college graduates won’t have a job offer upon graduation.

Most people are average.  Average grades with average income potential.  That’s where the term average comes from, right?  It’s the middle of the exceptionally talented, or those with really high GPAs compared to those who may have prioritized the social aspects of college over the academics and may have even worked their way through school. Perhaps they didn’t get to take advantage of the career center prior to packing up and leaving campus.  Within the average pool of people, there are still exceptionally talented people waiting to be plucked into their destiny of success.  Hard work does pay off, and finding a job after college is hard work.

If your recent graduate didn’t have summer internships relating to their studies, or part time work to offer them a glimpse of what professional life would be like after obtaining their degree, they are probably going to have to pay their dues now, as painful as that might be for you to watch.  Recent grads often feel their education should preclude them from starting with an entry level position, but the fact remains, a job with a reputable company is a great starting point for anyone. 

Whether the business is large or small, publicly traded or privately held, full or part time, they need some work experience. They need to prove to an employer they are reliable, dependable, organized, have good communications skills, can follow direction, and that they can work both independently and in teams.  The basics.  They need to take any job they can get and make it their own whether as an assistant manager at a drug store, or as the administrative assistant in an office.  They need to build the list of references that will vouch for them in the future.

For many grads it’s too soon for them to really know what they want to do long term or where their career will take them, so encourage them to just get started. They will learn more about themselves while working than not working and you can learn something from any job, good or bad.  Some of the most valuable experience can be gained in the most unlikely situations. 

Many times the amount of rejections the grads face is overwhelming and they will retreat back to school for more education. Here’s the skinny on that:  Unless the profession they are choosing (like nursing, law, etc.) requires the education to get started, they are going to be in the same boat a few years down the road if they don’t combine that extra learning with substantive work experience. It’s better to obtain that additional degree in combination with some practical application of their studies. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or special executive on site MBA programs that employees who are positioning themselves for promotion can take advantage of. Developing a healthy balance of education and experience is the most strategic and effective way to optimize your value to current and potential employers.

Telling all of this to your grads isn’t the easiest task, so you might want to consider hiring a coach to work with them.  Through the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/) you can search for coaches in your local area that offer career services.  The investment there will be well worth your time if you properly vet the coach you choose as someone who has successfully worked with others in the same situation in the past.

Teach your grads to network.  Currently, 80% of all jobs are found as a direct result of networking and utilizing personal connections. Ask your friends who work in your grad’s field for help. You’ll be surprised at how willing these personal connections are to help a young person and how quickly a small network can expand with just a little help from family and friends.  Encourage your job seekers to make a list of companies they are interested in so you can easily see if you have contacts there that may be able to assist them.  Having a well thought out job search strategy they can execute is important.  Setting timelines for follow up and evaluating results can’t be achieved if you don’t have a list to work from.

You might also want to take a look at your grad’s online profile because future employers are looking as well.  Their Facebook page and LinkedIn profile should be clean and professional.  Encourage your grad to remove any photos that may give future employers the wrong impression of their character.  Keeping a diligent eye on their online presence is very important and can be a deal breaker.  Just last week someone in our office pointed out that a person’s wedding website noted they had yet to graduate when the resume they presented to us stated they had completed their degree. That person was due to complete it this year in December but they are looking for a job now. 

Lastly, they can always do volunteer work to obtain more experience.  Many companies and non profits need help so don’t forget to consider those channels as well.

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The Tree Rings – Aging In The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Apr 26, 2012 in Career Path, Job Search

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Dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, is a method of dating based on analysis of the patterns of tree-rings. Not only can the age of trees be determined, but other variables can be inferred from tree rings such as past climates. The older the tree, the more knowledge can be gleaned from their unique patterns.

I get a lot of questions from people who are in their fifties needing advice about job search, career change, and what types of jobs are good for people over 50.  We wrote about why companies might want to hire people with more experience rather than less in the past but my husband read a recent article from the Washington Post and that, combined with the 60 Minutes tribute to Mike Wallace, shed new light on this subject for me. 

Did you know Mike Wallace didn’t even start with 60 Minutes until he was over 50?  For 37 years he was a trailblazer of news magazine programming and had an amazing career there, whether you agreed with his style and conclusions or not.  He is a shining example of how to take your experience in a new direction rather than retiring in the traditional way as you approach this part of your life.

Many people who are looking for work later in their careers have become accustomed to traditional employee/employer relationships because that is what they have always had.  Long gone are the days of our parents and grandparents when they were able to retire with a solid pension and live a relatively stress free retirement.   

Becoming a consultant in your field is an excellent opportunity for people faced with unexpected job change at latter stages of their careers. Now is the time where their expertise can lend itself quite nicely to assisting others with their own learning and growth paths while continuing to grow their own rings of experience.

Many start ups are seeking part time CFOs and COOs to help them grow, and local chapters of The Service Core of Retired Executives (www.score.org) can help.  I have seen many volunteers get snapped up into part time positions, in some cases full time roles, because they made a substantive connection with someone they met through SCORE who found value in their expertise.

Executive coaching is a great business as well but it does require certification to be held in professional regard.  www.coachfederation.org  If you are in the DC area and might want to learn more about coaching, the Capital Coaches Conference is an all day event Thursday, June 7th, 2012 at George Mason University and the speaker lineup is impressive.  Before you make the investment and commitment to becoming a certified coach, a one day conference like this is a great way to get introduced and meet many successful people in the industry. 

Remember, full time employment can come in the form of a couple of part time jobs combined.  If health insurance is a concern, consult your accountant about forming an LLC and an insurance broker can help you navigate what plan you need to accommodate your lifestyle.  A coaching client of mine (who is over 50) recently consulted with Business Benefits Group and uncovered a significant savings setting up a plan for himself rather than opting into his cobra coverage. 

So, while I might need a little more Advil to get past my morning aches and pains than I used to, knowing that I can take charge of my own career and find new opportunities to utilize my years of experience helping those with less gives me some relief.

Additional substantive articles on finding work over 50:

http://www.forbes.com/2010/09/30/over-50-job-seeking-leadership-careers-hiring.html

In case you missed the Mike Wallace segment, here is the link.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7405528n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.7

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The Ocean – Jumping In

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In the summer months, the centers of continents heat up, drawing moist air from the cooler ocean leading to the most significant rainfall on the planet. In the spirit of the symbiotic relationship between the ocean and the jungle – this summer I am taking a huge leap (and hopefully a splash) into unfamiliar territory – television.

I know there is a truly interested audience out there for a show that can follow average and not-so-average Americans in their search for work. One of the hottest topics since 2008, resume building techniques and job searching tips are some of the most talked-about items in the news and on the internet.

Imagine a talk show that focuses on this very theme including: job search, negotiation skills, promotion techniques, improving communication issues in the workplace, and exposing corporate hiring practices to the world so that Joe/Jane Job Seeker can better understand what happens behind the scenes to get his or her resume to the right person and not in another incoming email pile. A potential one stop forum for people needing assistance with any and all workplace conflict resolution, career advice, interview preparation, resume writing…anything and everything relating to career development. A place where successful celebrities and business personalities from chefs, to creative entrepreneurs, to CEO’s could share their stories of success and maybe even uncover some of the things they might have done differently. A completely different category in the talk show world where you can learn how to get any job or move up in the one you have and access a personal career coach right on your computer or television.

On the heels of the release of my third book, TEN SECRETS TO GETTING PROMOTED, I put on my life jacket, fins and oxygen tank (no pun intended) and have entered the Oprah / Mark Burnett contest for my OWN show on her new network.  CAREER CONFIDENTIAL

If you share my vision, please, take time to vote…as many times as you can! …and share this link with your friends and family that could benefit from a show like this making it to a regular time slot. 

Come join me for a swim into the vast ocean of career development. YOU have the ability to help me help them (and you!), so please…link, listen, VOTE and SHARE!

http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=2386&promo_id=1

Oceanic facts from: http://oceanmotion.org/html/background/climate.htm

Carolyn Thompson

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Career Confidential

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Climbing out of the jungle and into the spotlight! Vote for Carolyn Thompson to have her OWN show on the Oprah Network. See these topics in action! Follow the link! Carolyn’s Audition

http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=2386&promo_id=1

No matter your walk of life, career development is a major part of everyone’s personal path. My OWN show would focus on all aspects of career development from resume prep, to job search, to negotiation skills, to promotion techniques, to company hiring practices. Improving communication issues in the workplace, one-on-one interviews with notable successful business people and celebrities, getting behind the scenes at the major US employers including the federal government. Anything and everything related to careers, job search, employment, and getting promoted. Take a listen and please vote!

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