Welcome to the first issue of Just Ask Stacy. If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this and you’re not sure what’s happening, don’t worry. Just read the following and it will all become clear:
Just Ask Stacy
Practical advice for your career, your life, and possibly what to cook for dinner.
So, some of you are in the process of job-hunting and you’re annoyed with it all. This week I received a few questions about the online application process, getting an internship, and possibly fleeing the country — not necessarily in that order.
Let’s start with the online application first, m’kay?
Q: I’m so tired of online applications! They take forever to fill out even after you’ve attached your resume. Do you have any advice on how to make this process easier?
A: You gotta love online applications — especially the ones that claim they’ll populate the fields based on your attached resume, but when you attach your resume, there’s a “problem” and you have to fill out every field, including your entire past employment history! Yeah, that’s exactly what you want to be doing for the next two hours because the lazy algorithm is on a smoke break and can’t be bothered to parse your info. I don’t have a way to make the process less mind numbing, but here are a few things you can do beforehand to make it a little less time-consuming.
1. Create a text-only, non-formatted, non-bullet point version of your resume and use this version to cut and paste text into the online application fields. This is a bit faster than having to delete formatting used in your resume every time you’re faced with doing this task.
2. Some online applications want the address and phone number of previous employers, along with the contact info for past supervisors, and in some instances, your starting and ending salary for each position you’ve held. Put all of this information in the text-only version of your resume (which you dutifully and immediately created after reading #1 above, right?). This way, all the work history info is in one place and you don’t have to try and remember it or go looking for it in various documents.
3. In this same document (the one you created immediately after reading #1 and #2 above), include all the info for your references (name, title, email, phone). Again, this just makes it easier to cut and paste. And for the record, make sure your references know that you’re using them as references. This is not the time for surprises — for either of you.
4. One last thing — if you find that you’re coming across the same questions, create a list of stock answers and add those to your text-only document. For example, if you’re finding that the question of why you left a job keeps coming up, create your short simple reply so that you can cut and paste when needed rather than having to rethink and rewrite the answer over and over.
The goal here is to create one document that contains all the info you need in one place and in an easy to cut and paste format. When you come across the online application with the lazy algorithm, all you have to do is open this document and cut and paste away.
And one last thing — remember quality over quantity. Before you apply, ask yourself if you really want this job or if you’re applying because you think you need to meet some weird quota you’ve set for yourself, or it makes you feel better to apply for a lot of jobs in the hopes that somebody will acknowledge your existence.
There’s no point in spending the time it takes to do a really great application package for a mediocre job that will make you cry in agony as if you’ve reached the seventh circle of hell by the third day of your employment. Do better for yourself. You’re worth it.
Q: The online application is asking for my salary expectations. It’s a required entry but it won’t accept “negotiable” as an answer. It wants a number but I don’t want to put in a specific number and possibly be disqualified because of that. What should I do?
A: Do you have a number in mind (because your question sounds like you probably do)?
Is that number aligned to your market value based on your skill set, level of experience for the job, and location where you’re searching?
Do you know your market value based on your skill set, level of experience for the job and location where you’re searching? If not, you need to find that out.
Know your worth and to thine ownself be true and that will make you free!
Ok, I mixed up a lot of metaphors there, but you get the point, right? You need to know your value and be able to back that up with info that supports you. Then, stay true to what you know and don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
If you believe you’re worth X, and there’s data to support that, but the company is only willing to pay you J (which is a long way away from X in the alphabet), do you think you’re going to be happy settling for J?
Yes, you need to pay your bills. But is J even going to allow you to do that?
And if you settle for J today, how long will it be before you’re on the market again looking for a job that will pay you X?
On the other hand, if you think you’re worth X but the data confirms your worth J, you probably need to readjust on a few levels.
The point is this: know your market value and act accordingly. Check out salary surveys on LinkedIn using your job title, location and years of experience. You can also do a deeper dive on Salary.com or Payscale which will ask you a series of questions about your experience and education to show you what you’re worth today in a particular market.
Q: Do I have to fill in the voluntary info section that asks about race, gender and veteran status? Will it hurt my chances of getting the job if I don’t complete this? For that matter, will it help me if I do?
A: A lot of people are concerned about this section and some believe it violates various privacy laws. Some online applications say the info is voluntary but require you to respond, even if your response is that you choose not to respond. Others simply allow you to leave it blank.
For government-related jobs, a response is sometimes mandatory because of regulatory and other obligations related to government contracts and funding. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what happens with this info in all situations, or whether completing it or not completing it hurts or helps your chances at a job.
My advice is to go with your gut. If you feel ok about providing the info, do so. If you don’t, don’t.
And if there are any HR professionals who’d like to chime in on this, please do.
Q: Who should my kid talk to about getting an internship?
A: Ok first, that’s the wrong question.
People who stick with this question end up with 6-month internships where they sort paperclips by color and size before being promoted to bringing in Starbucks for everyone paid for out of their own pocket.
Ask your kid this instead: Why do you want an internship?
Where do you want to work? Why do you want to work there?
Who do you want to work with at this company? Why do you want to work with them?
What do you want to learn during this internship? (If they weren’t specific in answering that last question, make them go back and answer it again and be specific. In other words, don’t just say I want to learn how to do marketing; say specifically what you want to learn about marketing. And don’t say you want to learn everything about marketing because part of everything could very well be the ability to sort paperclips by color and size.)
What are the top three things you want to get out of this internship? At the end of this internship, what do you want to have accomplished?
This is how you and your kid can go about finding the right kind of internship. Without this kind of ground level research, your kid will likely end up giving up untold months of their life that they’ll never get back as they master the art of the clips and very little else.
And if your kid doesn’t care and just wants an internship anywhere, I’ll take a grande half-caf flat white please.
Q: How do I find a job in another country? I’m seriously thinking about leaving here…
A: Which country? LinkedIn and Indeed are full of jobs in other countries. All you have to do is set up a search and presto-change-o the jobs will appear.
But maybe let’s look at this from another angle: why do you want a job in another country?
Have you lived and worked in other countries? If not, maybe do a bit of visiting first before you commit to full-on employment. And although that’s slightly harder to do right now, it’s not impossible.
Which country do you think you want to live in? Have you been there and stayed for an extended period of time in something other than a full-service, all-inclusive resort?
What do you like about the country that makes you think you can live there? What do you like about the local people?
Do you speak the language? Even if everyone in the country speaks your language, can you hold a basic conversation in their language?
What can you bring to a job in another country that a local person can’t (because in some countries it’s illegal to hire an expat if a local person is qualified to do the same job)?
Can you adapt to the country’s social norms and standards?
How will your tax situation be affected in your own country? (Although a country may sell itself as a tax-free haven, if you’re an American, you’re required to file a tax return every year; the country you move to and the number of days you spend per year there will impact your taxes. I know, right? Uncle Sam…)
Even living in countries close to your home country may prove to be more challenging than you expect. Tropical climates are great for beach resort vacations, but not so much if you don’t like geckos in your home and the place you can afford to live in doesn’t come with air con. Trust me on this: I’ve lived with geckos. They aren’t cute, they don’t have accents, they don’t sell insurance, and they make singing noises at night…on your ceiling…while you’re trying to sleep in your sweltering non-air-con room.
Bottom line: it’s fine to start plotting your escape, but don’t start by asking how to find a job in another country. Start by researching the country you’re interested in and find out what it means to live there before you decide to look for a job.
Ok guys that’s all for this first issue. Thanks to everyone who sent me a message.
The next edition is already in progress and will likely include some insights on chicken…yup, chicken. Because people gotta eat.
Keep those questions coming!