Archive for Career Strategy


Wondering how to quickly and successfully land your next great position, contract or client?

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Your brand identity will help you to stand out from your competition.One sure fire way to increase your success is to ensure YOU stand out from the competition by building an effective “brand identity” or “core message” that stays consistent across all of your “marketing” tools and materials – business cards, resume, website, promotional materials, bio, elevator speech and social and networking media profile.  So how do you do this?

Start With a Strategy

As we know, many people in the same industry or field share common education credentials and have similar skills.  In order to differentiate yourself, the goal is to showcase your value – the benefit that you bring to your company or client – creating a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from the competition.  Consider what is unique about you ~ in how you approach to your work, your soft skills or great ideas you may have.  These things make up your core message and the content of your calling card.

Your Calling C.A.R.D.

Your calling card contains the primary message of your brand identity – what you want potential employers or clients to “know you as” or associate you with.  Your calling card is based around 4 primary things:

Consistency: Create a coherent personal brand voice and tone across all of your marketing/branding tools.  For example, the tag line on your resume should also be in your LinkedIn profile, your business cards, etc…  In this way, people become clear about who you are, what you do and what you offer.

Authenticity: Be yourself.  It is easy when creating branding materials to follow a script or a template but at the end of the day, YOU have to shine through.  What you share needs to be in your “voice” and reflect your style.

Relevance: Design your branding on insight ~ insight into who you are and what you deliver, and insight into how you can support your target company, employer or client in successfully reaching their goals.  In this way, your brand is relevant to their needs.

Differentiation: Create an impactful and unique visual presence with interesting content.  Try to be creative with your words, staying away from those words that are generally overused by the general populace.  Consider a style that is unique, perhaps putting your LinkedIn profile in 1st person language instead of 3rd.  Think outside of the box with your design and images – try and locate that picture, logo or style that says 1000 words about who you are, (the exception being your resume for on-line applications which needs to meet specific criteria to be scanned properly).  Below are some questions to help you create your core message:

  • What sort of lifestyle would you like to design?  What does your ideal life 5 years from now look like?
  • What are your interests and values?  What are you interested in doing and what skills are you interested in implementing.  How do these support the values or lifestyle that you want to create?
  • What are your strengths and aptitudes?  What are you naturally good at and what strengths have you developed over your career that you enjoy using?
  • What is your professional style?  Do you enjoy working for large corporations, new start-ups or something in between?
  • What is your personal style?  Do you prefer a suit and tie every day or casual business wear?  Are you a laid back communicator or very formal?  Are you a conformist or creative?
  • What is your mission?  What sort of work do you want to do and what kind of impact and legacy do you want to create?
  • What have you done?  What are some of the accomplishments that you are most proud of?
  • What do you want to deliver?  What are you most excited about bringing to an organization?
  • What actions and attributes do you want to most be identified with?

Answering these questions will give you a good start in clarifying your core message and creating your personal brand.  That said, please remember that any of your marketing materials and tools are “living” and over time will evolve and be fine-tuned – ensuring that you continually sharpen your branding strategy.  Most of all, have fun!


Lysa Appleton is a career strategist located in Nova Scotia and is passionate about supporting people to love their work and create successful and satisfying careers. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn or her website.

Illustration courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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Summer’s Come and Gone – Now What?

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September is time to get back to your job search!As June arrived with the promise of a summer filled with sun and fun filled adventures, many job seekers may have put their job search in low gear. “Why not?” you thought, “it’s summer and we all know that no one hires in the summer, so why not take a break and come back to it in September?”

Well, for one thing September is a peak hiring period, but to be a candidate you already need to be in the pool. And what about the networking opportunities that summer provides? Nothing like outdoor networking meetings on a warm sunny day!

Now September has arrived and you’ve lost momentum. What to do?

All is not lost. Here are five tips to reignite your career transition:

1.   Organize Your Time

Chunk out where you’ll spend time each day. Create your own personal critical path with a plan. What activities will you engage in each day as you go back to the drawing board:

% Self-Assessments:
% Labour Market Research:
% Networking:
% Direct Application:
% Cold Calling:
% Information Interviews:
% Online & Social Media:
% Search Engines:
% Classifieds & Ads:
% Recruiters:
Other Activities to achieve objectives:

2.   Get Out – Get Active.

Don’t become chained to your computer. Think about and plan where you will spend your time each day:

Information Meeting / Interviews – start with people you know and build from there

Business Meetings – Chambers of Commerce host breakfast and lunches

Networking Groups – Meet Up and Event Brite can be good places to start

Employer Presentations – seek out places where potential employers are active

Career Fairs – with the end of summer more events will start taking place

Employment Centres – consult your local support services to find out how they can help

Job Search Clubs – many local libraries and other community services host these events

Personal Boards – connect with other job seekers and create your own triads or support system

Skill Development – participate in some form of skills development engaged with others

Volunteer – in your community, industry associations, or targeted businesses

3.   Market Research

Start looking for those organizations with a need that fits your value proposition.

Gain a better understanding of what employers want and need. What challenges are they dealing with that you can help resolve? Sometimes these can be issues faced by an entire industry, while others may be unique to that organization. Consider how your experience, talent, skills, and knowledge can help to address these problems.

4.   Develop a Targeted Job Search.

Create a targeted approach to your search by starting to track all (and I mean all) potential consumers of your services. Use all resources at your disposal from online sites, to industry associations and local business groups. Include business journals that cover the geographical area that you’re targeting. Keep track by developing a list of all the potentials (the list can exhaustive) in Excel or a database. Jibber Jobber can be an excellent tool to help you with your target list and with tracking all this activity.

5.   Keep Records

In addition to your tracking systems, pay attention and start to take note of what develops for you each day. What and who are showing up in your life? What are you learning about yourself, the job market, business needs, job search tricks and techniques, and most importantly your targeted employers? A daily journal or idea pad can be useful in this regard.

Find ways to stay motivated and connected to your job search every day. Starting over after a relaxing summer can be challenging, but once you find your rhythm you’ll be taking steps towards gaining the interview and eventually closing an offer. Don’t try going it alone; seek out ways to get regular support. Hiring a career coach that can help provide guidance, resources, and inspiration can be an excellent way to kick-start your transition. If you do, conduct your due diligence and interview three or more to make sure it’s a good fit and identify the one that meets your needs as you develop your strategy.

Summer may be over, but the reality is that other than seasonal employers, business never takes a holiday. You never know when or where your next opportunity might come from, so start now and be prepared to meet it when it shows up.

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If not now – when? Building a long-term executive career

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As an executive career consultant, I have noticed that although most senior managers conduct due diligence when buying a home or a vehicle, these same individuals often do not value themselves enough to invest the same time and effort into their career. For a variety of reasons, these individuals have put their job search strategy on hold. They assume they can kick-start their plan as soon as they lose their job, their finances get tight, or their severance runs out. There is clearly a lack of foresight on the part of these executives. By the time they get to me, they are desperate and behind the eight ball.

Connect with Diverse Professionals to Plan Ahead

The recession started to force people to rethink this perspective. The economy however, is not the only contributor to this paradigm shift. Times are changing. How you conduct business and navigate the career landscape needs to change too. Rather than moving from one opportunity to the next through a process of osmosis, you can plan ahead to stay ahead.

One of the critical areas in any job search comes from remaining current with business. You need to keep pace with trends to have a broader perspective than in the past. A simple way to do this is to put together your own board of directors designed for personal career management. Your board would consist of various professionals who bring diverse perspectives from different sectors to the table. Collecting input from these connections allows you to stay current and keep a finger on the pulse of today’s trends while gleaning insight that would help forecast future challenges and changes. This venue will also provide an arena for brainstorming best practices and sharing forward-thinking ideas that may otherwise take years to transcend from one industry to another.

Connect with Like-Minded Professionals to Stay Current

Change is not only happening more rapidly than ever before, the transition has become multi-layered. Innovation is at warp speed. Technology is constantly being upgraded and the latest version of the newest gizmo is short-lived. I’m sure you have heard of Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. How about blogging, wikis, and an infinite number of other online applications loaded with buzz words? To succeed in the future, your computer, internet, and social media skills need to stack up. You must leverage these tools to facilitate your career development and keep up with the ever-growing tech explosion.

Jean Nidetch recognized the value of peer-to-peer collaborative processes. She founded and went on to successfully grow Weight Watchers International built on this premise. By bringing together a group of like-minded people with common objectives, people can join forces to accomplish their goals, or as the saying goes, “two heads are better than one,” certainly applies here.

At the rate today’s resources are becoming obsolete, there is no way for any one person to stay current on their own. Organizations develop partnerships and alliances as a way to build and maintain a competitive advantage. This business principle is very much applicable on a smaller scale. You can and should develop relationships with your colleagues where you can share technical expertise in the pursuit of excellence.

Connect across Diverse Cultures to Stay Relevant

As the world shrinks, so do business markets. It is becoming increasingly necessary to have an understanding of diverse cultures. We once worked in local communities where everyone knew almost everyone, and everyone lived within a particular geographical area at the very least. Today, we regularly travel physically or virtually around the world to do business.

Outsourcing and off-shore operations have become paramount in the strategic planning of organizations. These alternatives are natural offshoots to a world where businesses protect their bottom lines.

There is just no way to accurately predict how all these markets will turn. However, if you are connected with people at multiple levels, you’ll gain a better understanding of what is happening in business at a larger scale. Make these connections now, even if your company is serving a local or smaller market today – because tomorrow, you may be the small fish swallowed by the gigantic whale. You can prevent your skills and experience from becoming suddenly inadequate.

Connect with Us and Create your Career Roadmap

Far too often, executives sit comfortably with little to no thought about career and professional development until it is too late. For some, all the hard work that went into an extensive education followed by years invested in business is enough. They sit back and expect the next opportunity to come to them. Others take a proactive approach to help them meet and exceed their objectives.

Recently, one of my clients mentioned the idea of a career road map and asked whether or not having one made sense. My immediate reply was “Absolutely.” If you do not currently have a career road map designed to accommodate the next five to ten years in your career, start to develop one now.

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Employer Survey on Resumes & Applications: Early Results

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employer survey resultsOver the last few months, we’ve been asking employers and recruiters to share their views about resume format, resume content, resume submission method, and other related topics, and the responses are quite interesting!

We plan to publish a detailed report at a later date, but for now we thought you might like to know the top answers so far to a few of the questions.

Question: Who screens resumes in your application process for your organization?

Top Answer: Hiring Manager

Question: What resume format do you prefer to see when receiving resumes?

Top Answer: Reverse Chronological

Question: What do you prefer to see as the opening statement in the resume?

Top Answer: Value Statement (articulated information about what the candidate can do for business)

Question: What is the most important item that you must see on an applicant’s resume?

Top Answer: Core Competencies

Question: What would cause you to eliminate a candidate based on the following in the resume?

Top Answers: Spelling & Grammar, Lack of Evidence (tie)

Question: What format does your organization use to receive resumes?

Top Answer: Email

Question: How important are cover letters in applications to your organization?

Top Answer: Extremely Important (will not review application without one)

If you’re a job seeker, we hope this information will help you with your resume strategy.

If you’re an employer or recruiter, please share your thoughts on these topics and more by completing our survey.

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How to Organize Your Job Search Workspace

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Create a dedicated workspace for your activities.

  • Make sure you have all the resources, tools, equipment that you need
  • Centralize your career transition and career development material so it is readily accessible when needed
  • Place your computer, telephone, and desk space away from household distractions.
  • Establish a telephone answering policy for your home, including an appropriate voicemail greeting
  • Be aware of places that offer photocopying or other job search assistance resources you can access when on the road or travelling out of town

Design an information management system that works for you.


  • Strategic Planner
  • Spreadsheets, Gantt charts
  • JibberJobber or other online career management tools
  • Binders, folders, calendars, index cards, Duo-Tangs
  • MS Outlook: contacts, tasks, calendar, follow-up reminders

Prepare documents and other marketing tools in advance.

  • Have an ample supply of documents, portfolios, business cards, and other materials on hand in the case of a panel interview
  • Prepare a checklist to refer to during interviews
  • Know your timetable and have your calendar on hand to schedule future appointments or meetings
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How to Organize Your Job Search Time

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Dedicate time to setting your objectives for the week, month, or period.

  • Synchronize your electronic tools to save time
  • Define your objective and clarify the actions or steps to complete or achieve it.
  • Decide how much time to dedicate to each activity:
    • Self-Assessment
    • Labour Market Research
    • Networking
    • Direct Application
    • Recruiters & Agencies
    • Cold Calling
    • Information Interviews
    • Online
    • Search Engines
    • Classifieds & Ads
  • Think sequentially and prepare ahead, e.g., schedule preparation time before an interview
  • Set SMART targets so you can assess your progress
  • Document your action plan
  • Make time weekly to evaluate and assess; especially when there are a large number of applications or coals in the fire; consider next steps, follow up, relationship building

Integrate and implement your strategy.

  • Know where you are in the process so you can determine your next steps.
    • Follow up on an application
    • Get in touch with a reference
    • Connect with members of your network who may know something about a company where you have an interview scheduled
    • Schedule time to bring your references up to date
    • Follow up with networking contacts (You’ll find it helpful to jot notes on business cards about problems, challenges, and other people within or outside the organization to speak to)
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Employers, share your views on resumes

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resume survey for employersHiring practices are continuously evolving, due to the development of new technologies as well as changes in employer expectations. This presents a challenge for job seekers who aren’t up to speed on current trends.

We believe that a clearer understanding of the type of information sought by employers, recruiters, and hiring managers will enable applicants to respond accordingly and thereby help to facilitate the recruitment process.

To that end, we’re currently conducting a survey to learn what employers, recruiters, and hiring managers prefer with respect to resume format, resume content, resume submission method, and other related topics.

Take the Survey Now and see the results to date.

We’ll be sharing more results on the blog down the road.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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As you approach the end of an exciting job search and a rigorous recruitment process, you feel yourself closing in on your goal – a potential offer. It’s exciting. You know that you are a good fit for the company and you feel rapport with the decision maker. In your final meeting, the inevitable question arrives – “What are your salary expectations?” You stumble with your response, worried that you will either low-ball and forfeit your worth or over-bid and miss an opportunity.

Being prepared to discuss compensation starts long before the question is asked. A strategic approach to the compensation discussion will make you more confident when the question arrives. If you are six-figure professional, your negotiation calls for much more than a response with your starting salary. You need to consider many perquisites (incidental payments, benefits, privileges, or advantages over and above your regular salary) or “perks” for short. Used effectively, these can be powerful negotiating tools.

Know yourself and your value

Your preparation is critical to a well-executed career transition. First, you must know yourself – be clear about your values, passions, direction, goals, and target. Next, define your value proposition – your unique offerings that set you apart from any competition. Ensure that you have many specific examples of achievements in your career where you have produced measurable bottom-line dollar results. These key components will help you build a business case.

Conduct your due diligence

Use online tools such as Twitter or LinkedIn to follow professionals in recruiting and human resources. Gain a better understanding about what they think makes for a successful recruitment process, effective salary discussion, and a great candidate. Then, when the time comes and the employer brings up the question of salary, you’ll be ready to respond with confidence.

Conduct your due diligence and get to know the potential employers as well. By doing so, you will have an advantage when it comes to understanding their needs. Research the industry, the market, their products, competition, and customers. Take into account the corporate size and context related to compensation that is appropriate to an eventual agreement. Understand the impact that the current market and economic conditions have on your target.

Determine the parameters and perquisites

Once you have built your business case and conducted your evaluation of your employer’s needs, you are ready to prepare a checklist of all the conditions that you are seeking in your next offer. Far before your first interview, you should already know those things that are significant to you about the company and the role.

List everything from your hours, work environment, travel requirements, training and professional development, employee shareholders plans, and retirement contributions, to all the potential benefit and compensation options. As you proceed from networking and other job search activities through to the recruitment process, you will be able to better gauge what the company offers and start assessing the fit for both parties.

Know your numbers

Before your first salary negotiation meeting, know your number and, more importantly, know your audience. Take advantage of the many Canadian compensation and salary reports at your disposal and establish your salary expectation with a reasonable range that can be adjusted to meet the criteria you uncovered in your research.

If your hand is forced early in your discussions, you might say: “Based on my research, here’s a range $X to $Y that I am comfortable in negotiating for this position with (Company Name). I’m interested in hearing more about the offer and conditions of employment.”

Listen to the offer

When you start your discussions in earnest, customize them to fit your needs and to suit the potential offer. Pay close attention to the offer. Let the interviewer do the talking. Do not be too ready to jump in during awkward gaps or moments of silence. Instead, take notes. Only when you have heard the entire offer and given the interviewer ample time to consider other ways that might sweeten the deal, provide your response. Often, this requires asking for a reasonable amount of time to consider the offer.

Never verbally agree or sign anything until you are 100% certain that you are ready to accept. Pay attention to cues and know when it’s time to reply, provide a number, or open the door to negotiation. Not every offer is negotiable and this is why doing your homework in advance is key.

Present your business case

Should an in-depth negotiation ensue, present your business case formally. This will demonstrate your level of professionalism and merits. Your business case should take into account all your research while demonstrating what you can do for this organization in the future.

Remember, as with any negotiation, try to consider all pertinent factors in preparing your case. The economy and recent recession have created a buyers market where many employers have trimmed incentive packages. So make sure your expectations are realistic and well supported by your value proposition. Finally, the employer should always introduce the subject of salary. So, the next time this question arrives, you will not only be ready to reply, you will also be ready to close the deal.

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Strategic Career Transition for Executives

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Last month, I introduced Value Proposition as one strategy you can apply to your job search and career. Today I’ll focus on the importance of strategy to six-figure executives in career transition.

Business Strategy is defined by Johnson and Scholes as

“The direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term, which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations.”

As an executive, have you ever conducted business without a strategy? Do you deploy your teams and engage in projects without targets or objectives? I would venture to guess you would never approach your business mandate without some form of strategy. In fact, as you read this, it may even appear ludicrous to consider the idea. So, why would your career transition be any different?

From my experience supporting six-figure executives, I have found that many executives do not have a well thought-out strategy. Others define their strategy, if they have one, in narrow or limited ways by restricting their activities to job boards, social media, or recruitment agencies.

Strategy helps you, the job seeker, to:

  • Build a solid foundation by defining your objective.
  • Clarify a target for yourself.
  • Take systematic steps to learning as much as you can about your target.
  • Prepare a unique set of documents or marketing tools that speak to your target.
  • Leverage this foundation building process to position yourself in front of decision makers.
  • Utilize the research and information used to covey value confidently, closing the deal.

If you have any questions about this topic, please leave a comment, and I’ll answer them in a future post.


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Value Proposition Theory in Career Transition

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Value Proposition takes a strategic approach to reach the targets and audiences that will ultimately invite you to join their team. It will facilitate your ability to convey the VALUE you offer to a potential employer.

In business, we recognize that consumers buy because there is something about the product or service they are purchasing that is unique and compelling. You possess a unique set of experiences, qualifications, and personal characteristics that employers seek; it is your job to communicate them clearly. Otherwise, you are doing a disservice to a potential employer who may not understand that what you are offering that can be of value to them. Far too often companies end up hiring the best interviewee and not necessarily the best candidate. The reason: poor, or no, value proposition.

A research study conducted by Graham Management Group in 2007 discovered that an alarming 97% of resumes assessed that year had no value proposition. A similar study in 2009 uncovered that 24.1% struggled with Branding Strategy – Creating a value proposition and brand identity.

Have you defined your value for the roles you are targeting with the organizations you are targeting? If not, then start by taking a hard look at your target today and follow these steps:

  1. Define your target clearly. Determine the industry, sector, size, scope, and type of organization you want to approach.
  2. Know the role you are planning to take and where it fits into the overall corporate structure.
  3. Prepare a shortlist of possible businesses to target and conduct the necessary due diligence. Perform internet and market research, reach out to personal contacts in your network, complete informational interviews with current executives and employees, and join industry associations.
  4. Drill your list down to a “Top 10”. Get to know these organizations intimately – their mission, vision, values, products, market, clients, challenges, needs, aspirations, and objectives.
  5. Identify the experience, qualifications, and competencies you bring to the table that respond to the needs and wants of your target.
  6. Set yourself apart from the competition by defining the unique characteristics that differentiate you from other candidates for these roles.
  7. Communicate your unique core value statement to others. Based on your value proposition, deliver this message to your network, your business contacts, and most importantly – your target.
  8. Devise a plan to build a relationship with people in the organization and the corporation itself.
  9. Present what you have to offer that is not only of value today – but also in the future. Make yourself the solution to their problems. Help them to discover their need for someone of your calibre.
  10. Close the deal, by finalizing your acceptance with an organization that is truly the right fit for both parties.

When Value Proposition Theory is developed as the foundation for your strategy, you are creating a solid foothold that will support the rest of your career development strategy. Start developing your Value Proposition today and consider the benefits of hiring a Professional Career Strategist in order to expedite the process and fast track your way to achieve your objectives.

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