Don’t Do THIS: Go In Halfhearted (or Less)

You’ve been spending quite some time sending out resumes. Some of those open positions sound absolutely perfect for you; others may not be exactly what you were hoping for, but they could sure use somebody with your experience and skills. Finally, you get a phone call and you’re invited to come in for an interview.

It’s the big day. You’ve got a nice suit on, you’ve got extra copies of the polished resume that got your foot in the door, and, because you’ve done your homework on the position and the company, you’re coming prepared with some questions for whoever’s interviewing you. But there’s one other thing you better also have because it’s something that anyone talking to you is going to want to see no matter how fantastic your skill set is, and that’s enthusiasm. Trust me. I know this from personal experience.

When I was a teenager and trying to get a part-time job, I applied, as so many other young people do, at the local McDonald’s, and I got my very first interview. One of the questions the manager asked right off the bat was “Why do you want to work here?” I answered quite honestly, “Because I want to make some money.”

Now, while I was as personable and charming as I could be for the rest of the conversation, that answer cost me the job right there. In my naïveté, I thought my candor would be appreciated. It wasn’t. Of course people want to work to make money, but that’s something that could be done anywhere. What they wanted to hear was that McDonald’s was my favorite fast food restaurant, that their French fries can’t be beat, and/or that the service was always professional but friendly. They wanted to know that I actually wanted to be part of their operation.

Decades later, I was the editor of reference works for insurance underwriters and on the other side of the table when it came to interviews. My supervisor and I were building a practically brand new staff, and one candidate looked great, at least on paper. HR brought him in, but the individual we saw didn’t quite match the person described on the resume. He was gawky, wearing a shirt and suit that seemed a size or two too big, and on the quiet side. Quiet? He was almost silent, forcing us to pull answers to our questions out of him. More than that, he was just listless. In fact, at one point during the interview, I passed a note to my supervisor asking, “Is this guy alive?” Really, the zombies on The Walking Dead were perkier.

Did we hire him? No. We were looking to take on someone who would be researching different industries and writing about the hazards involved and what precautions should be taken. That would have involved digging deep into the Internet as well as calling professionals in those fields and visiting companies that manufactured specific products or provided particular services. A certain level of curiosity and energy was needed, and given that he seemed totally disinterested in the position, the work, and the company, and that he came off virtually comatose, it just didn’t seem like this would be a good fit.

So, when you’re called in for an interview, you’ve got to show them not just that you’re interested but that you’re genuinely excited about the opportunity. If it’s that perfect job you’ve been dreaming about, that shouldn’t be hard to do. If it’s for a job that you’re capable of doing but maybe it’s not exactly that one you were imagining you’d get, take stock of yourself. Why did you answer that particular ad? Why did you say, “Yes,” when your friend asked, “Hey, I know somebody who could use you. Should I mention your name?” Find that reason and bring it out. Take that enthusiasm with you and you just might make that open position your dream job after all.

— Daniel Dickholtz

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Terrence Seamon on “The Next You: 3 Questions”

Terrence Seamon, a career coach who helps transitioners through the St. Matthias Employment Ministry, came to speak at a PSGCNJ general meeting a few weeks ago. Seamon, who also works for the Ayers Group in Princeton, asked to follow up on his talk with this special guest blog entry.

A colleague of mine once sent out a desperate plea for advice, saying that she was despondent in her job search and ready to throw in the towel. Perhaps you have felt this way.

If you (or someone you know) are in this same predicament, I have three questions to help you start thinking about the Next You:

1. What work do you really want to do?

2. What obstacles are standing in your way?

3. What is calling you?

Let’s take a closer look at these three.

First, I would ask, “What work would you really like to be doing? Do you want to stay in your chosen field? Or do you want to branch out into another?”

Articulating your vision for yourself, and the work you aspire to do, is a critical step in the direction you want to go. Each of us has been gifted with skills and talents. Putting those gifts to good use is one of the keys to happiness and success.

Second, I should ask, “What is standing in your way? What is holding you back? What is keeping you from moving in your desired direction?”

Even though we desire to change, nevertheless we may be stuck. Getting clearly focused on your own obstacles – those within you and those outside you – will stimulate energy for the change you desire to make.

Third, I would ask, “What do you feel called to? What impact do you dream of having on the world?”

Your “calling” is your purpose. I believe that we all have one. The trouble is, many of us never hear it.

First, as mentioned above, you need to become more aware of yourself, including your interests and values, as well as your skills and talents.

There is also the “where” of your career. Where do you want to work? For a large company or a small one? For someone else or for yourself? Close to home or far away?

Another aspect of one’s calling is “for whom?” How many of us really think about the audience we want to reach or the customer we want to serve?

One more item to consider is “with what effect?” Many of us are socialized to think that we work to make money, full stop. We want to make a lot of money, and so we gravitate to the for-profit realm. But that is not always the path to fulfillment. A not-for-profit company may be the place where your gifts will do the most good and bring you the most satisfaction.

The world of work is a much bigger landscape than we may imagine, and it contains much more diversity and opportunity than we know.

If you, like the person whose plea started this meditation, are feeling “bummed out” in your career transition, maybe this is a good time for some soul searching with a few helpful questions.

For additional guidance on career transition, follow Terrence Seamon on Twitter @tseamon.

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Are You “Overqualified” or “Absolutely Qualified”?

“You’re never overqualified. You’re ‘absolutely qualified’,” career coach Abby Kohut told about 80 attendees at the Sept. 26 PSGCNJ meeting.

Kohut was a corporate recruiter in human resources for 22 years and offered jobs to almost 10,000 people. She noted that she wanted to tell job seekers “the absolute truth” about what it takes to get a job so she left her HR job in 2010 and started her career consulting business “Absolutely Abby.” Kohut revealed she wanted to “help one million people [get jobs] because [she] may have rejected” a similar number during her HR career. To spread the word, she bought an RV and started an “Abby Across America” tour in 2012.

Kohut said many people worry whether their resumes should be one page, two pages or more. “There are very few facts about the job search so I’m going to tell you my opinion,” she remarked. There is “no policeman of resumes, no authority of resumes.”

When someone says you are “overqualified,” Kohut explained, they are really saying that they believe you likely want too much money, have too much experience, or have too much education. She said employers fear that so-called overqualified candidates may leave for more money if a better opportunity comes along, worry they’ll keep looking for a better job, or worse, that they’ll quit and the companies will have to begin a job search again.

When an interviewer or screener says you are overqualified, Kohut says, you need to turn that to your advantage.

To Kohut, being “absolutely qualified” means that you require less ramp-up time, can mentor team members, have a proven track record of success, have a strong work ethic, have strong problem-solving skills, have a broad range of experience, and that you are able to work with all different personalities, and are dependable, loyal and mature.

“Your being ‘overqualified’ is correlated with age, yet not caused by age,” Kohut said. Although there is “no right number of years to list on a resume,” she suggested getting rid of tell-tale signs that indicate you’re outdated. Remove AOL and hotmail email accounts, make sure that your resume lists a Summary, not a Career Objective, don’t say “references available upon request,” and don’t list confusing job titles or, even worse, lie about job titles.

She told her audience that you can turn “overqualified” into a “blessing in disguise” and use it to explain why you may now be willing to accept less money or less responsibility. “It’s the elephant in the room.” Explain why you are willing to accept a pay cut for a company that you really want to work for. Good reasons include if your spouse is making a good salary and if it’s in an industry or organization that reflects your passions.

Kohut said it’s best to have one “clever comeback.” After being told you are overqualified, pause. “Then, ask them, ‘Do you prefer a pilot who is qualified or overqualified when your plane is experiencing turbulence or an emergency situation?’”

In 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was certainly overqualified and in the last years of his flying career, she reminded everyone in attendance, when he landed a plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew after an accidental encounter with geese crippled the plane’s engines.

According to Kohut, you are “absolutely qualified” when your employer sees the value in all of your experience.

— Michael Olohan

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Do you want to IMPROV your chances of acing an interview?

Have you ever been stumped in an interview and not known how to answer a question that the interviewer has posed?

If you’ve had that situation occur – and who hasn’t – you may want to take the IMPROV and Advanced IMPROV classes offered by PSGCNJ, says Marguerite Corazza, Training Committee Director.

According to Corazza, learning to improvise and listen to the interviewer’s words and questions are critical to getting past a momentary brain freeze when a tough or unexpected question is asked.

Often, she notes, job candidates may become overwhelmed during an interview when a hiring manager or a panel of interviewers fire questions, and possibly overthink their answers.

“The IMPROV classes help you to get past your overthinking, and really focus on identifying and curing some of the judgments we have going on in our heads,” explains Corazza. In fact, these courses taught her how important it is to “be in the moment and be authentic” with the person interviewing you. “You must listen to the cues and clues that the interviewer is giving you,” she stresses.

The IMPROV classes delivered by Victor Manga for a nominal fee ($10.00) run approximately 2.5 hours and help job-seekers to feel more comfortable and confident when put on the spot during an interview. Half of the course fee is donated to First United Methodist Church and the other half goes to PSGCNJ, Corazza says.

All members must take the Accelerated Career Training three-day course offered monthly by the Training Committee before being eligible for advanced courses, such as IMPROV. To register for advanced classes or request a mock interview, email: PSGCNJTrainingRegistrar@gmail.com. Also, see the Training Calendar for more details on upcoming ACT or IMPROV classes.

– Michael Olohan

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Don’t Do THIS: Dressing Less Than Sharply

Back in the 80s when I went for my very first job interview right out of college, I KNEW that you were supposed to wear a suit. After all, you wanted to make a good impression. It was only common sense.

Of course, once I got the job, it was different. This was a company that published consumer magazines covering different aspects of the entertainment industry, and the dress code was pretty lax. I still wore a buttoned-down shirt and a tie every day of my first week until the managing editor told me, “Knock it off. You’re making everybody else nervous.” After that, I could wear jeans and sneakers if I wanted.

It was the same when I went for my next job, which was at a database publishing company. Only the people at the very top ever met directly with outsiders, and so, only they wore business suits every day. But I still wore mine when I went to interview for my position in the first place. I didn’t know that the rank and file could wear jeans and sneakers, just that I needed to look good the very first time anybody from that company saw me.

A few weeks ago, I had to respond to something brought up in a conversation on LinkedIn. This hiring manager was talking about a young lady who had come into her office for an interview but she was dressed in a jeans-and-leather outfit. The manager felt she needed to explain to this woman that what she was wearing was inappropriate for their workplace, and she wondered what they were teaching young job-seekers these days.

I had to say that, as much as those in our generation didn’t SEEM to need to have the idea of dressing properly for a job interview hammered into us, this really wasn’t anything new. I brought up an article that I read nearly 20 years ago which discussed a woman who showed up for her interview in nothing more than a bikini. It’s not like she was trying to get by on her looks. She told the recruiter that she and a few friends were going to the beach right afterwards and she didn’t want to waste any time changing.

Now, really, what does something like that say to a recruiter? Does it indicate that the open position is actually that important to the job seeker? Does it show any degree of respect for the recruiter, a hiring manager, or anybody else at the company?

So, please keep that in mind when you’re preparing for your next interview. Wear a nice suit. If you’re into perfume or cologne, don’t put too much on.

It’s just common sense.

–Daniel Dickholtz

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How can IMPROV help me on-the-job or in the job-search?

Improvisation or Improv, is not about learning how to become quick-witted….it’s about learning how to build something tangible out of nothing or out of turmoil.

Does this sound like what you’re trying to do, whether you’re searching for your next job or developing a solution for a project in your present position.

One of the most important skills an employer looks for is critical decision-making. The ability to make those key decisions in the course of the day that keeps the business process flowing effectively.

An Improv setting gives you opportunity after opportunity to do just that—make a quick decision and face the consequences over and over and over again.

Where else can you practice continual decision-making in a dynamic environment without judgement and without the consequences having any long-lasting effects (except for maybe an insight or two)?

IMPROV-ing leads to IMPROVing!

The results of practicing Improv can be both amazing and surprising. It helps to address those blind-spots we have that we are unaware of. 

Other benefits:

– Think more quickly on your feet. 

– Learn to listen more effectively

– Improve your communication style

– Inspire your inner creativity

Victor S. Manganaro will be the guest speaker on Monday September 28th at PSGCNJ where he will lead an abridged version of his Communication-Improv workshop.

Don’t miss it!

For more information, go to:  improv4effectivebusinesscommunication.com or IMPROV4ebc.com.

Speaker BIO:

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Victor’s passion and purpose is about teaching people new skills and inspiring them to exceed their potential. It is with this purpose that gave birth to the Improv for Effective Business Communication Workshop in 2013.  From the first time he stepped onto an Improv stage, other players who studied under Second City recognized his unique Improv talents and ability. 

He leads various versions of his Improv workshop to fit the needs of his audience (job-seekers, singles, those looking to improve communication skills, helping to find one’s authentic voice, finding your life’s purpose and team-building for business).

Victor has spent most of his career creating and presenting training and educational material, typically for the systems and products he developed. At PSGCNJ, he has hosted monthly meetings, redesigned and facilitated ACT training, and performed IT and marketing functions.

Currently, he is working at a Technical Services Company, performing a variety of functions, including technical writing, blogging and social media strategy. He is a graduate of NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

For more information, go to: improv4effectivebusinesscommunication.com or IMPROV4ebc.com

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Paying for Your Health Insurance through COBRA? Visit healthcare.gov before February 15

By Bill LaChance

Bill LaChance

In my financial planning practice I spend a fair amount of time with people in a job transition. Recently I have spoken with a few people who pay for their health insurance through COBRA, not realizing that they could potentially save hundreds of dollars a month in premiums by obtaining subsidized policies from the government’s health care exchange. You are allowed to purchase a plan on the affordable care act exchange and qualify for a subsidy even if COBRA is available to you. In addition, if you live in a state that expanded Medicaid coverage, you might qualify for fully subsidized health care if your unemployment insurance has run out and your annual income is low enough.

The way the new health care exchanges work is that private insurers provide the insurance for individuals and families either not covered under a group plan from an employer, or covered by an employer plan not designated as affordable. In New Jersey, where I live, five insurance companies are offering 51 different plans. Last year there were only three companies offering 29 plans, so the market has become more competitive.

Individuals and families with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below certain thresholds qualify for subsidies from the federal government, which directly pays the insurers, thus lowering your premium. MAGI is adjusted gross income from your tax return (income before deductions and exemptions)–adjusted up for items such as tax exempt income, income that dependents earn, etc. that are typically not part of adjusted gross income (AGI).

The subsidies are actually tax credits. You estimate your modified adjusted gross income for the upcoming year, which then determines the subsidy. When you complete your tax return at the end of the year the subsidy is recalculated based on your actual MAGI. There is a new form, 8962, which you will need to fill out. Any difference between this recalculated subsidy and the subsidy that was provided to the insurance company during the year will either increase or decrease your final tax bill. So you will want to make sure that the estimate you provide during enrollment is as accurate as possible. The government will typically require that you send in documentation at the time you enroll to prove that your estimate is reasonable.

The subsidies kick in when income drops below 400% of the poverty level based on your family size. Below 140% of the poverty level you will qualify for Medicaid, assuming you live in a state that opted to expand Medicaid (the Supreme Court ruled that states were not required to expand Medicaid and many did not).

Here are the income thresholds for subsidies and Medicaid, based on family size:

Family Size Subsidy Threshold Medicaid Threshold
1 $46,680 $16,423
2 $62,920 $21,983
3 $79,160 $27,724
4 $95,400 $33,465
5 $111,640 $39,206
6 $127,880 $44,947
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