Wednesday, July 15, 2009


To those of you who have this link bookmarked, I've moved my Job Search column over to Examiner for its ease in subscribing to posts and to sort through my articles to find the information you want faster and easier!

Please bookmark the new website at:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Employment with Startup Companies

For those of you who are interested in finding employment opportunities within the start-up arena, here is some advice. Where there is funding, there are start-ups, so don’t forget to seek out venture capital organizations and angel investors to utilize for leads in finding the startup companies who have gained recent funding.

Search job boards (especially and with just the word "start-up" or "startup" to pull up companies who are hiring. The fact that they are hiring is a good thing, regardless of whether it is for your field or not, and makes them a potential target for contacting. While at check the small business ads and gigs sections out as well. If you find something of interest, find a way to pitch yourself!

ONLINE NETWORKING can be a great source for finding groups of venture capitalists or startups executives. Krista Canfield, a spokesperson for, says to use their advanced search feature to look for job titles including the terms “Owner”, “CEO”, or “Founder”. She also encourages checking out potential companies’ LinkedIn Company profile, as you will be able to see new and recent hires to gauge a company’s growth. “This page will also show you if anyone in your network connects you to that company so you can get a personal introduction,” says Canfield.

Although usually for more socially-related purposes, is quickly becoming a hotbed for business interest groups as well. A quick search for terms such as “startup”, “entrepreneur”, and “venture capital” bring up hundreds of groups nationwide, and each group’s page has message boards, member listings, networking events, and more. John Ramey, Founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based startup isocket adds, “Also try twitter – many startups have the word startup in their account bio.”

Don’t forget it’s imperative to take your professional networking offline and into the real world where the Founders and CEOs of these organizations meet. Ted Scofield, a Securities Atorney for Furnari Scher LLP states, "Securities lawyers who do private placements for start-ups have an inside track on the best start-ups. They know which companies have the best chance of success, not to mention money to pay your salary!" Find out when groups of start-ups, investors, and the likes have in-person meetings and mixers, then attend and schmooze with them! Chamber of Commerce mixers and meetings are great, and every town or city usually has one. Business schools often have many events throughout the year as well. Attend conferences, meetings, social events – anything you can find! If it’s expensive to attend any certain and you can’t afford it, offer to volunteer in exchange for admittance. You may also be able to make many introductions simple through mingling in the lobby of the event.

Set News Alerts with terms like “venture capital” and “startup” along with cities local to you. When companies are getting press you will be notified and able to locate them. Mary Robins, Director of Career Services at Menlo College also suggests keeping tabs on the San Jose and San Francisco versions of the Business Journal, “They frequently report on start-ups and who is getting VC funding. It’s really the best business news around.” Kevin Woo, a Freelancer for Forbes adds, "The San Jose Mercury News has a VC survey that they publish each quarter which lists who received money and how much." Many industry specific news sources can also give you leads on potential companies rising up, such as,,,

Send the founders a general inquiry letter marketing your services and talents, or ask for an informational interview on their project. They’ll likely be impressed if you’re passionate about their new company and be willing to sit down and speak with you. Ramey says, “We’re very approachable. Be simple and concise, tell us why you believe in our startup, because after all, you must share the passion and vision. Do NOT let your recruiting agent forward your anonymous CV to every startup they know. We get cold emails and calls from recruiters every day, even though we ask them to stop. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is the second coming – we likely won’t bother.” Passion, vision, and dedication are key in this job market!

The hours are long. The jobs duties are far-ranging and diverse. The benefits packages may be little. The personalities are strong. And their hiring process can be even pickier than your local corporations. “You’ll need to be patient and be willing to go through a more rigorous or lengthy process than with a non-startup,” says Ramey. “Working for a startup is a life style choice, not a career choice. Do not even bother unless you understand and are willing to embrace the lifestyle. If you’re looking for a 9-5 job for 5 days a week that has well defined problems and objectives with market benefits, go somewhere else. If you want to sacrifice and change the world, come here.”

LOCAL EVENT LISTINGS: – “Happy Hour” events for startups seeking interns
http://www.ebig.og/ – East Bay Innovations Group – Silicon Valley Startup Funding Meetup Group – Emerging Technology Connection – Networking event calendar – Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs

FURTHER RESOURCES: – MIT/Stanford Venture Lab – Venture backed growth companies – Keiretsu Forum, a large local Angel Investor Group – Investors and startup directories – Venture firm – Startup companies and jobs – Entrepreneurial internships – Silicon Valley seed funding org – Job Openings at Highland-backed companies – Tech, startup, and engineering jobs – Job Board for venture-backed startups

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Libraries During Tough Economic Times

Libraries are really stepping up during the tough economic times, and they’re being noticed for it too! Check out this morning’s TODAY SHOW piece:

The Free2Succeed Job Center concept is also spreading!

We have been accepted to present “Free2Succeed: Creating a Library Job Center” at both the American Library Association and California Library Association’s annual conferences this year!

We’re also awaiting news on grant funding for the upcoming year through the California State Library, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cover Letters That Work Today

Why Write A Cover Letter?

Even if the job advertisement does not specifically ask or require a cover letter, you MUST (MUST MUST MUST!!) still write one or you are doing yourself (and your job search) a great injustice. You also don’t want to send off a generic cover letter to each position, but take the time to make it specific for each opportunity. A cover letter has many purposes:

- It shows the reader that you can write and communicate effectively and professionally, which is important to just about every field. Don’t put the term “Excellent communication skills” on your resume – SHOW it in your cover letter!

- It proves that you take the opportunity (and the reader) seriously and aren’t just blasting off hundreds of resumes to anyone holding a paycheck (even if you are)

- It gives you a chance to quickly communicate your specifically valuable attributes and interest in the position and/or company, and to mention anything that your resume may not

- It makes you stand out amongst those who did not take the application process formally enough to do a cover letter, and right now you need any advantage you can get to be noticed

Keep it Short and Get to the Point

Recruiters and hiring managers are being bombarded by 100’s of resumes for every job posting they put out there. It’s not like the good old days where you can spout off a 6 paragraph long essay and have it actually be read. It likely won’t. You also don’t want to give off the impression that you’re long-winded and will bore your manager and coworkers to tears, do you? The keywords nowadays are efficient, concise, and focused. Three small paragraphs are usually enough: Intro, Qualifications, and Conclusion.

Address it to the Hiring Manager

Whenever possible, find a way to hunt down the name of the person who will be receiving your resume. Search or Call the company and ask (politely!). If the hiring manager and a rep from Human Resources are both receiving resumes, send them separate cover letters and resumes. The point here is to prove that you go above and beyond in diligence, pay attention to detail, and are very serious about this opportunity. It also gives you a contact to follow up with should you be able to find it.

Add Passion (But with a Grain of Salt)

Write your cover letter from the company’s perspective – what can YOU do for THEM. Why would THEY want YOU? That said, if you do have (or can come up with) a very passionate reason on why this is the one and only place you’d ever want to work, use that as an opener. Leave YOUR interest there only, and continue the rest of your cover letter focusing on what you can offer them.

Examples of some passionate openers:

“After seeing your posting for the Electrical Engineer position on, I had to send my resume immediately, as your location is less than a mile from my home and I match the qualifications perfectly.”

“Being that I took care of my mother with MS, I found the Executive Assistant position with The MS Society an extremely rewarding opportunity, and have attached my resume in consideration.”

“Since I already eat, sleep, and live baseball, I can only imagine that being able to work as an Accountant for the Oakland A’s would complete my life.”

Spoon-feed Your Qualifications

DO NOT use the second paragraph of your cover letter to reiterate your entire resume or summary of qualifications. The hiring manager is already receiving your attached resume. Use this space to respond directly to the qualifications and desires the company communicated within their job advertisement. Pull out the ad and highlight the keywords they have chosen to use within it. Use these words when carefully crafting your description of why you’re the perfect candidate. You want to spoon-feed to them quickly and efficiently that you have the skill set and experience they are looking for. Also, DO NOT acknowledge any shortcomings in your skills or experience. Save it for the ‘weakness’ question in the interview, and leave it out of your cover letter completely.

The Closer

The conclusion paragraph is very simple. You want to add in a sincere thank you (“Thank you for your valuable time and consideration.”) and a follow-up.

If at all possible YOU want to become the one to follow up (especially so in ‘pushy’ fields such as sales or marketing). To do this you will need to 1.) Have (or obtain) a phone number or permanent email address for the hiring manager; 2.) Close your cover letter by telling them you will follow up within a few days to ensure that they received your resume; and 3.) Actually perform the follow-up as you said you would. If you promise to follow-up and don’t, you’re showing a lack of follow-through and organizational abilities, so if you’re not 100% sure that you will follow up, don’t say you will.

Obviously with the current employment market being so crazy, many employers are trying to hide their identities like they are ex-mobsters under the witness protection program, doing everything from posting blind ads and using one-time only email addresses. In this case, you may not have the option to follow up despite your highly developed (or not so) online sleuthing skills. A quick, “I am available at anytime to discuss further how I can contribute to your organization, and look forward to hearing from you.” Usually does just fine.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

When you’re a hiring manager who gets 300 resumes for one job opening, the first thing you’re looking to do is narrow them down immensely, and immediately! Don’t let a small spelling or grammar mistake get your resume sent to the trash pile. I don’t care how great you think you are at writing, have a friend (or two or three) look over your cover letter and resume for you. I’ve seen spelling and grammatical errors on letters coming from editors and technical writers, so it can happen to anyone!

A second set of eyes can really mean the difference between the interview and the trashcan. If you’d like for me to look yours over, I can do so as well. Just make sure to email me your completed cover letter in .doc file format, as well as a link to the job you are applying for. It’s our pleasure to provide the service from the Livermore Public Library to you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is Your Email Address Sending the Wrong Message?

Yes, something as simple as your email address can turn off an employer, and in the current job market with hundreds of competitors all vying for the same job, do you really want to take the risk? You shouldn’t.

Make your professional email address with only your name. It can take many tries to find a version that isn’t taken, but it’s worth the time to find one. You can have another address for friends and family if you like, but you want to keep your professional email address PROFESSIONAL. Just as your resume represents you, so does your email address. It doesn’t get much safer and professional than using your name only. Some examples of versions you can try:


Use of other terms and words as your email address just doesn’t give off the same level of professionalism, and can sometimes give off a bad impression or lead to discrimination because you’re giving your email address a personality of its own. Some examples of poor ones I’ve seen:

Lazydaisy420@.... <-- Who wants to hire someone lazy? And what does that 420 mean?

Tonysmamma@... <-- Don’t advertise that you have children, which can be a negative for some employers!

Honorthyfather@... <-- Stay clear of religious context in any way! Religion, politics, and sex are no-no’s!

Holla_atcha_boy@... <-- There is no place in the workplace for Ebonics

Mary1957@... <-- This may indicate the year you were born, leading to age discrimination!

tommylovestheraiders@... <-- What if the hiring manager is a Giants fan?

superhotgirl@... <-- Sexual harassment lawsuit, anyone?

thesmithfamily@... <-- We want to hear from YOU, not you, your wife, and your children

I think you get the point.

You may have to try different variations on where to get your email address as well, since many of the older email providers such as may have all the versions of your name taken. You may want to use a free non-subscription based email provider, versus using one from your current internet provider (such as Comcast), because should you ever cancel your service, you will lose your email address and all efforts associated with it.

Here are some other websites where you can obtain a free email address:

You may also want to be careful about the email provider you choose in relation to age or tech-savvy discrimination as well. Diane Danielson, CEO of Downtown Women’s Club, states, “I tend to favor those who seem more technically literate and the email address is a big giveaway. To avoid an HR person assuming you are a Boomer (and with no technical relevancy) best to get a gmail or yahoo - or better yet, use GoDaddy or another service to purchase a personalized URL that can be redirected to outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird.”

As Diane says, if you want to really look like a pro you can always get an email address such as (with your own name of course). Rita Ashley, a Job Search Coach, also suggests, “I always recommend a first step in their revised search plan is to acquire their name as the domain for their email; lose the free email accounts. It shows professionalism and for technology professionals, it is a must.”

Not only should your email say who you are, but so should your email signature! It’s a great place to not only provide pertinent contact information, but also to market that you’re looking for a job. Here is my email signature as an example:

Megan Pittsley
Free2 Succeed Job Center Manager
Livermore Public Library
Phone: 925-373-5500 x5595
Fax: (925) 373-5503

A signature and a name-based email address also helps with follow-up communications. Lori McCormick, an Independent College & Career Counselor, explains another great reason why your email should be your name: “You want to confirm that your application has been received. To respond to your unidentifiable email asking for proper identification and once this is confirmed, respond with an update of your application status (translation: a lengthy email dialog) is highly unlikely! Usually they will be too busy to try and figure out who you are and delete your email.”

Don’t switch back and forth between your “fun” email address and your professional one. You want to send a consistent and clear message about where you can be reached. Make sure you are using the professional email address to list on all resumes, register with all job board websites, to send cover letters and resumes, for all professional social networking sites, etc.

NEVER use your company email for any job searching communications. As Alanna Faro, a Coach and Human Capital Strategist put it, “I really question the judgment of people who email me from their current employer's computer instead of a private account - especially if that employer is a direct competitor. What they'll do to that company, they'll eventually do to me or my client.”

Cristen Rice, Senior Branch Manager of Spherion Staffing: “When we are hiring, if we see an email address that is not professional, it reflects on the candidates maturity level, professionalism and how serious they are about obtaining a career.”

Shel Horowitz, a professional resume writer and ethical marketing specialist states, “I have actually stopped my clients and said ‘you are setting up a new e-mail address...right now’, and we go and set one up that won't embarrass or handicap them.”

Glenn Phillips, a hiring manager at Forte’ Inc. tells it like it is: “Candidly, we intentionally ask that the first contact from applicants be by email just so we can see if they can communicate professionally via email. If they cannot pass that easy test, then we don’t waste our time on harder evaluations. Our thought is that if they do not understand how important it is to represent themselves professionally, then we have little faith they would think the same about representing our firm.”

In closing I leave you with these thoughts from Bruce Powell, Managing Partner of IQ Partners, an Executive Recruitment Firm: “Why work so hard on making your resume the best it can be, only to have something as simple as your contact information plant a seed of doubt in a Hiring Manager's head and make all that hard work for nothing? With such fierce competition out in the job market today and the critical importance that hiring carries, Hiring Mangers can get extremely picky and have eliminated candidates for much less. In the end, why risk it?”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Behavioral Interviewing - Become a STAR

I recently received a question regarding behavioral interviewing from one of my clients and thought this would make a great topic for a blog! As the job market gets flooded, it’s an employers’ ballgame when it comes to choosing who they draft for their team, and thus the interviewing and selection process usually becomes quite more involved.

Behavioral interviewing is a method of interviewing where the interviewer asks a question where you are supposed to provide a successful example of how you did something above and beyond what was asked for, showed that you had an excellent skill, tactfully solved a problem, etc. It is not new by any means, but it is becoming increasingly popular, as studies show that the most proven method of predicting future performance is by focusing on past performance and behaviors.


“Can you tell me about a time when you dealt with multiple priorities and how you handled them?”

“What have you done in your past position that was above and beyond expectations?”

“Describe a time when you successfully dealt with an extremely difficult coworker (or customer/boss/vendor)”


Make a list of the top 10 or so most commonly desirable qualities in your line of work. Not sure of what those are? Start looking for keywords in ads for positions you’re interested in (especially the ones you’re interviewing for!) and key in on commonly-used terms that are stressed as being important qualifications for your line of work. Look for words like fast-paced, multi-tasking, problem-solver, independent, proactive, organized, detail-oriented, team player, self-motivated, etc.


Take your list of qualities and keywords and come up with stories that show your excellence within these areas. Think of times that you have made a difference within your company, volunteering pursuits, or accomplished something else great. Look over your resume and job descriptions for ideas that related to your responsibilities and achievements.


Make sure when you tell your story or example you are explaining out each portion that the employer needs to hear – Situation or Task, Action, and Resolution. They need to understand what was going on, why it was a problem, what did you to solve it, and what the outcome was. Keep the STAR acronym in your mind to quickly get to the point and stay on track with your story, as you don’t want to ramble on and on.


Don’t wait until you’re asked behavioral interviewing questions to begin utilizing these fantastic accomplishment-rich answers either. They make great answers if you can find a way tie them into regular questions, because you’re not only telling the employer that you have a certain desirable attribute or skill, you’re giving them a visual of you actually using it.

Happy interviewing!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What You Should Know About Job Seeking & Your Taxes

With the staggering amount of people laid off in 2008, the current concern for most is their search for a new job and making money in 2009. However, don't forget that with tax season upon us there are many things related to your job search that you can write-off! Now is the time to get refunded from last year's job search, or begin preparing for and documenting this year's job search. Here are a few tips from Sonja Felder, Owner of Savutax Consulting out of Los Angeles.

Most things related to your job search can be written off, including the costs of printing and distributing your resume, as well as resume-writing services. Don’t forget to include anything that you utilize as a part of your employment search. Felder explains, “…if a personal computer is used at home for the job search, the portion of your internet cost associated with looking for a job can also be deducted. The same goes for phone use.” While uniforms or special shoes needed as a requirement for a job may be tax deductible, Felder warns that interview attire, dry cleaning, or general work clothes (even if there is a dress code) is NOT.

Whether you’re looking for work in your own neighborhood, or in another state, don’t forget the opportunity to write off travel and mileage expenses, which can include plane tickets, rental cars, and hotels. All mileage going to and from interviews, career counseling sessions, and job-seeker resource centers is eligible for tax write-off at the rate of 24 cents per mile for 2009.

For the many out there who are taking on contract work and part-time jobs to keep themselves working until they find the right position, Felder offers this gem: “…if a person has a temporary or part-time job, the miles are tax deductible up to a year. Regular or permanent job miles cannot be deducted since it is considered commuter miles.”

If you can make it work, relocating to an area where more jobs are available within your expertise isn’t a bad idea. Even though in the current economy many companies are cutting back on their relocation packages, you can still write off any uncovered expenses on your taxes. Felder suggests, “In addition to the mileage deduction, an employee can also deduct temporary housing and storage costs. The deduction is reported on Form 3903 and flows to Form 1040. Some expenses could be deducted on either Form 3903 or Form 2106 which flows to the Schedule A. For example, food is not deductible on Form 3903 but can be deducted on Form 2106. However, you can only deduct the expense once.”


Going through a job search in a tough economy is difficult and draining, so get the help you need and write it off! "Career Counseling would fall under the search for new employment and would be eligible as a tax write-off." says Felder. Career Counselors can assist with a variety of job search related tasks such as career assessment, resume writing, personalized job search assistance, and more. Many free resources for career assistance can be found by logging on to or you can locate a professional Career Counselor for specialized services through the National Career Development Association at under “Consumer Info”. Also, don’t forget the valuable resources of your local libraries.

Mental health is also important to your overall well-being as well as your job search, and shouldn't be overlooked. If you feel the need to get some psychological counseling to stay balanced, this can be written off as a medical deduction for anything not covered by your medical insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have it!). You need to take care of yourself during stressful times to ensure that when you do get that big interview you can perform at your best!

Maintaining and storing records is of the utmost importance. Felder says that it’s very important to record the beginning and ending mileage on your vehicle every year. “The easiest way to determine miles on the car’s speedometer is to get the earliest car repair or oil change bill in the year and the latest car repair or oil change bill of the year. The bills will always have your actual miles and help to determine miles for the total year.”

You also may need to substantiate your expenses so Felder suggests keeping strict tabs on these. “Make sure appointments for job interviews are written down in an appointment book, Outlook or a PDA. You can then google or mapquest the miles and write them down in your appointment book or prepare a spreadsheet to keep up with your expenses.” Records should be kept for up to 10 years. Although a taxpayer has 3 years to amend a tax return, the IRS is allowed to go back 10 years to audit a taxpayer.

Sonja Felder can be contacted via for tax consulting purposes.