Archive for the ‘Job Search’ Category

What to do about your job search during the Holidays…by Barbara Babkirk – November 28, 2017

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

The Holiday season is here and you’re exploring job opportunities. Do you put your efforts on hold, or carry on? While conventional wisdom may say: “Chill out, no one is hiring in December because budgets are spent.” We have a different perspective at Heart At Work.

Just think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus all the new people you might meet who may be great connectors to your next employment opportunity.

However, if you are not clear about your career direction or job target, you might cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re are up to, or worse still, what you want to do.

Once you’re prepared for the inevitable question, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help for your transition. If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works.

You’ll need to then say “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came someone known to them.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many executives curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity and even a new job to celebrate in the New Year.


Take Charge of Your Career in Six Steps by Barbara Babkirk – July 21, 2017

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Therebigstock--162279116’s a trend I’ve noticed over the years as a career development professional. Somewhere in the 40s decade, people are often inclined to take action on their careers. It’s as though they feel an internal prompt, rather than an external motivator.

“I just fell into my career and I want to be more planful going forward. If it’s going to happen, it needs to be now.” That’s a common statement that the 40-something clients make.

If this describes you, then perhaps the following six steps will help you shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life and career path.

  1. Take stock of what you want from work in this stage of your life. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or consider a job search to work that is more aligned.
  1. Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear.
  1. Understand the professional value you bring to the marketplace and seek out opportunities to communicate it verbally (meetings, performance reviews), virtually (with a great LinkedIn profile) and in writing (effective emails, outstanding resume, crisp cover letters).
  1. Create opportunities to increase your visibility with your clients, prospective clients or employer.
  1. Stay current with best practices in your field and be innovative in presenting new ideas and practices. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends in interviews or in professional conversations.
  1. Consistently attend to your needs. Take time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to seize the next best opportunity.

How to shift your fears in any transition – by Barbara Babkirk – May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Beautiful Butterfly.The fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll on even the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which reflect our fears and impact our hearts and minds.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear clients expressing trepidation about their career change that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you.

This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.

Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite, and has you “pull in the wagons of your life” in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

When you consciously think about what you desire, you create an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.

I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you focus your attention, breathe, and get clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition.

In doing so, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.



How to keep up job search momentum during the Holidays – by Barbara Babkirk – December 7, 2016

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Designer by computerIt’s true that the hiring process typically slows down over the Holidays. After all, it’s the end of the fourth quarter and budgets are typically exhausted.

However, my advice is to keep some momentum for your job search going throughout the Holiday season. In fact, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to make strategic and useful connections.

With many executives curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

You might also have a competitive edge in the job market, as many applicants assume not much is happening and opt to wrap presents and sip eggnog instead of pursue job leads.

Take advantage of holiday gatherings to connect with people you don’t see very much during the year – former colleagues, neighbors, distant relatives, old friends. They can all be helpful in your job search, providing you are forthcoming with information about what you need.

When the time is right, you might give them an idea of the skills you have and ask to be introduced to someone who may be in need of them. If they seem interested in helping you out, let them know you’ll follow up with them after the Holidays—and do!

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity to celebrate the season and enter the New Year with sense of promise and good connections too.

Negotiate well. – by Barbara Babkirk – October 6, 2016

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

win-win banner - negotiation or conflict resolution strategy  -I was recently invited to participate on a panel based on the book Women Dont Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

In preparing, I found some interesting statistics: 49% of Americans never ask for more than what is offered, despite the fact that 79% of employers expect to negotiate a job offer (and more women than men accept what’s initially offered without negotiating).

Compensation is often an important topic of conversation with clients since most arrive at the offer stage in the process of working with my team.

We often encourage clients to negotiate an offer, if the circumstances are right. This is often based on two factors: the value the applicant brings to the organization and how the marketplace is compensating for similar positions.

When done well, the negotiation results in a win-win for the candidate and the employer.

Your attitude has an impact on the end result. Research shows that if you feel in control of your life and believe you can make things happen, (as opposed to believing that others control your circumstances) you are more likely to ask for what you want, and, therefore, influence the outcome.

However, if you believe your fate is in someone else’s hands, you may not even imagine there are options other than those presented to you.

Follow these tips and negotiate an offer that is fair and thoughtful:

  1. Think about what you really want and the value you’ll deliver, not just what you assume is possible.
  2. Articulate your professional value clearly as a rationale for your request.
  3. Know what the marketplace pays for your position by doing research online and locally (com,, as further justification for negotiating.
  4. Express appreciation and interest in working for the company before you present your counter-offer. Keep in mind that your negotiation can include benefits beyond compensation such as: vacation time, a flexible work schedule, additional time without pay, professional development support and other benefits.

How to manage your next career move – by Barbara Babkirk – September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Job words on board game as you land a new career or move intWe’ve heard it before: the marketplace is constantly in flux and so are the ways that people successfully navigate a career change.

Long gone are the days of the “one employer career path” or finding your dream job in the classifieds.

With the average job tenure at 3 years, we all need to manage our careers, or we’ll find ourselves reacting, rather than responding, to the inevitable changes.

The most recent issue of HR Magazine featured a provocative article on “career pivoting”. Former Google exec, Jenny Blake, offered this advice to those considering a career change:

Test the waters of your next move by assessing how it meets the “three E’s” of job satisfaction:

  • Enjoyment: Would I like working in this new focus area?
  • Expertise: Could I become an expert in this area? Would I want to?
  • Expansion: Will there be further opportunity in the marketplace for this new direction?

I thought Jenny’s advice conveyed a succinct and useful way to evaluate job prospects.

Her “three E’s” also provide a way to be proactive and look for options that are aligned with what you want and are likely to have a promising future.


The key element in a successful job search – by Barbara Babkirk – August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

key_to_success_banner1Stop winging it with random networking emails or calls and posting and praying (your resume that is).

Start creating your strategy– and the practice of communicating your professional value – verbally, virtually and in writing.

I’ve found that many job seekers can pull off one of the above, but it’s rare that someone has their act together in all three ways of being strategic in their job search.

Here are tips for creating a winning strategy:

Verbally – Use talking points to practice conveying the following:

  • Your current status (keep it short and sweet—no lengthy explanation of why you’re leaving your job or much less about why you lost your job because you did not see eye to eye with the new leadership).
  • The skills and competencies you want to put to use in your next opportunity
  • An interest in the challenges your contact faces that require those skills and competencies
  • Advice about others with whom you should be meeting and a request for an introduction to someone

Virtually – You must be present in an effective way on Linkedin (90+% of people sourcing talent look there first)

  • Populate the key areas of your profile that pull on searches: your headline (which most people underuse with a job title rather than who you are in the marketplace and the impact you have) and a summary that tells a short story about who you are, what you do and why you do it.
  • Bring your profile to “expert” or “all star” status by making sure your profile is complete with recommendations, a photo, summary, a few groups and an appropriate headline next to your photo.

In Writing – People fret over cover letters, but it’s not necessary!

Use the job description as your guide and select the most pertinent (according to your skills and prospective employer needs) requirements. Then clearly state when you’ve demonstrated those requirements. Keep in mind that most employers have a check list that they use to screen applicants. Save them time by addressing the criteria clearly with good examples.

How to maximize your job search success during the holidays by Barbara Babkirk – November 30, 2015

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Businessman Wearing Santa Hat Using ComputerConventional wisdom may tell you to put your job search on hold until the New Year once the Holiday season hits, but the team at Heart At Work Associates disagrees.

Think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus the new people you might meet. You never know how one of these chance meetings might benefit you.

But, if you cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re up to, or worse still, what you want to do, you are likely to avoid these opportunities that have the potential to move your job search forward.

Forget the pressure of having to identify a job title or even a career direction. Instead, be prepared for the inevitable question, by stating your current status (in transition, job was just eliminated…) quickly followed by “and I’m looking for my next challenge where I can use my skills in …Is there anyone you know with whom I should meet?”

If you are prepared with this type of response, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help at event where friends and colleagues gather.

If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works. You’ll need to respond with “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came from someone the recipient knows.

The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many professionals curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

While some organizations have exhausted budgets by year-end, this is not always the case. Be open to the possibility that a new hire would help spend down a budget or assist hiring managers get a jump-start on goals for the new fiscal year.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity that could lead to a new job to celebrate the season.


Over 50, looking for a job, and concerned about your age? Don’t be. by Barbara Babkirk – October 11, 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Ageism Gets OldMy career counseling specialty is the boomer demographic and most of my clients have two things in common: they have worked for decades in a primary career and they are afraid that their age will hinder their search for new work.

My job is to help them get to the heart of the matter: identify what they want to do, what they have to offer and how to land a job. In order to begin that work, I often have to give them a reality check about their fears.

So I ask: Have you heard that 30% of Maine’s population is between 50 and 70 and that a third of that group is poised to retire?

The “older boomers” nearing 70, will create a significant gap in the marketplace as they officially disengage from paid work. It’s clear that employers will need to think creatively and inclusively about how to fill positions and get the jobs done. It will be the naïve hiring manager who lets age discrimination get in the way of a good hire.

So, avoid second-guessing any prospective employer about how they’ll view your age, and focus on what’s sure to be an asset: your cadre of pertinent skills, experience, and relevant education and training.

The initial way to present this information is via Linked in and a professional résumé. As you put your best foot forward virtually and in writing, avoid any indicators that will hint that you are not current in your skills or knowledge of the marketplace.

Here are tips for conveying your knowledge about current best practices in the job search:

  • More than 90% of people seeking to hire use Linkedin as a key resource to identify talent. Create a winning Linkedin profile that includes a summary “story” about your background and skills. Be sure to customize and include your LinkedIn URL on your resume. (We have a LinkedIn specialist on our team who offers LI workshops three times a month.)
  • Avoid unnecessary, extraneous information on your resume like “references furnished upon request”, personal data such as “married, 2 kids” or a list of your hobbies.
  • Include only the years of past employment and not the months that detract from more important information.
  • Provide concise information about your experience; show results whenever possible and use strong and descriptive verbs to delineate your experience.
  • Avoid including the year you graduated from college or graduate school. Keep them guessing about your exact age.

With a pro-active approach and positive mindset, you will shift from fears about your age to focus on finding a great match between your skills and job target and marketplace options.

Accelerate your job search by Scott Woodard – September 22, 2015

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Job-SearchYou’re looking for a new job and you haven’t been as successful as you would like. That is, you haven’t been hired, in spite of all the effort you’ve put in.

The fact is, looking for a new job is hard and stressful, even if you’re not changing careers. And, it’s a lot harder than it used to be: There are hundreds of applicants for each position advertised. Applicant Tracking Software systems are used to screen for keywords and sift through those hundreds of resumes, before a human being sees your document. Even if you’re perfectly qualified for the position, you may not get noticed because your resume didn’t have the correct keywords in the right places.

The whole process feels random.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can develop tools and follow processes that can make you more successful.

A couple of items to keep in mind throughout your search:

  1. Organizations hire people because they have a problem that needs solving. They don’t hire because they have a vacancy. They save money on vacancies; and
  2. People hire people they know, or people they know know. That is, people who are referred to them by people they know.

So to be successful in your search, you need to know the organization’s problem and demonstrate that you know how to solve it; and you need to know someone who can provide access to the organization; someone from your network.

Know Your Professional Value

It is critical that you can articulate your professional value to a prospective employer. You need to demonstrate that you’ve successfully addressed the problems/challenges with which they’re confronted.

Remember, organizations hire because they have problems that need to be solved. You need to be the solution to their problem. Your professional value — sometimes referred to as “personal or professional brand” is the first step in aligning your qualifications and skill to their challenges.

Key questions to ask yourself in determining your professional value:

  • What are my top strengths and skills? (Don’t include loyal, punctual, quick learner.)
  • What is it I do really well? (Can you answer in a sentence or two?)
  • What am I most proud of in my career and how does it relate to the employer’s problem?

One way to demonstrate professional value is to tell brief stories about how you’ve been successful in past roles. We encourage clients to use the SAR model:

  • S = Situation, the problem statement;
  • A = Action, the actions you took to address the problem;
  • R = Results, the impacts of your actions on the problem.

Fitting your success stories to the SAR model helps clearly and concisely demonstrate your professional value.

Once you have your stories developed, you can integrate them into your resume and cover letter customized to the employer’s needs as outlined in the position description.

Leverage Your Network

Remember, people hire people they know or people who are referred to them by people they know. Leverage your network — the people you’ve met professionally and personally. Let them know what you’re looking for and how your professional value fits that target.

LinkedIn is an essential component of your job search. Whether you already have a job or are unemployed, you should create a compelling presence on LinkedIn.

Recruiters and HR managers source many of their candidates through LinkedIn. This means that talent search professionals seek qualified people for the jobs they have through LinkedIn.

Being on LinkedIn is about articulating your professional value and marketing yourself. It is about getting noticed by people who matter — people who just might be interested in hiring you for a new job or people who might be your next best clients or professional colleagues.

It’s one thing to have a strong, compelling profile on LinkedIn; but, the real power of LinkedIn is in leveraging your connections to gain access to decision makers in organizations you target.

You should never have to make a cold call in your networking efforts. Use your strong connections to introduce you to hiring managers and other decision makers that they know.

Nail the Interview

Once you have an interview with the organization you’ve targeted and applied to, you need to be prepared to articulate your professional value verbally.

You need to research the people you’re meeting. Again, LinkedIn is a good resource. By the way, if you’ve masked your privacy settings so that people can’t tell it’s you that viewing their profile, you need to change them. You want the people you’ll be interviewing with to know that you’ve looked at their profiles.

You need to research the company. Use your network for this. What do your professional colleagues know? And, of course, there’s always the internet. If the organization has been in the news lately, you’d better know that.

Know how to dress for the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code for the organization, then dress above it.

Know what to take (extra copies of your resume; don’t assume those you’re meeting with will have copies). Know what to leave behind (your cell phone).

Be prepared to respond to questions about your experience and value. Use the SAR model to demonstrate concise examples of your value. Know what questions you want to ask in the interview, which ones will emphasize your value, and which one’s not to ask. Know how to ask about next steps in their process and how to ask for the position.

Follow up with a note of thanks and how you’re a perfect candidate for the role. Emphasize the issues that were raised in the interview.

A successful job search entails knowing your professional value and being able to articulate it verbally (in interviews and with your network), virtually (via LinkedIn) and in writing (resumes and cover letters).



Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

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