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Be inspired. It's your career. It's your life.
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05/18/14
Reinvent Yourself!
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 12:00 pm

I will admit to being a ‘magazine junkie,’ a ‘periodicals princess,’ a… you get the idea. From the time I consumed my parents’ Time, Saturday Evening Post, Yankee, Reader’s Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens magazines — starting when I was just a kid — I have always loved magazines (and the daily newspaper, in *print* format). My reading taste in periodicals has evolved (somewhat) and while Better Homes & Gardens, Time, and Yankee still come to my mailbox some 40 or more years later, along with half a dozen leisure-reading magazines (More, Real Simple, etc.), I add to the collection my current preferred business selections:

* Fast Company
* Inc.
* Money
* Success

For the most part, I try to allocate my business reading of magazines to one a week and it usually works out just about right. Unless, of course, one slips behind the recliner in my office, as was the case with the November 2013 issue of Darren Hardy’s Success magazine. Discovered just last week, I read anew the publisher’s letter (one of my favorite parts of any magazine — that, along with letters to the editor and the endnote/article). Hardy described five keys to reinventing yourself that I thought had merit — and would for most of my clients. With credits to Success magazine’s publisher/editor, here they are (edited) for your inspiration:

1. Leverage your strengths. We are all born with unique gifts, talents, and advantages. You do things that most people can’t do or can’t do as well as you. Identify these strengths, it’s the first, most important key to reinvention.

2. Identify what exhilarates you. What is your passion? It need not be grandiose, Earth-saving, life-changing, or even revolutionary. What are the subjects, products, markets, people, activities you really enjoy? What do you find interesting and stimulating? What fills you with energy just thinking about it? The answers - surprise! - will usually lead toward a rewarding profession/career.

3. Be willing to step back. To leap into a new field, you may need to take a step back to learn and study. Be willing to be an apprentice for a while. Find someone who has the success you aspire to and seek his or her mentorship and counsel. Be flexible, patient, and teachable. Nothing worthwhile comes without effort and paying the price of tuition.

4. Be wary of the naysayers. Family, friends, and peers have known you as you *have* been. Change frightens most people. To many, it is especially frightening to watch someone else have the courage to radically reinvent themselves and chase their dreams. Why? Because it eliminates their excuse for not doing so. It is much easier to try to talk you out of your reinvention rather than act on theirs.

5. Build your support team. Find models, mentors, and a peer group who share your ambition and will be allies in your new adventure. Indoctrinate yourself with supportive books, magazines (I shared my list here), audio programs, seminars, and conferences as you develop skills, attitudes, and knowledge in your new adventure.

Wait no longer: Reinvent yourself into the person you were always meant to be. Live the life of your grandest vision! It might just align perfectly (hmmm, it *should*) with your job-search plan :) Sounds to me like a solid strategy ;)

– Jan Melnik, M.A., MRW, CCM, CPRW - President, Absolute Advantage
Be inspired. It’s your career. It’s your life.

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06/24/13
LinkedIn Matters!
Filed under: General, Networking, Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 12:10 pm

At nearly every forum I’ve been in during the past few months (both professional and personal), someone inevitably talks about social media and asks about LinkedIn.com. Eight or so years ago, people were very concerned that if they had a profile on LI, it would scream, “I’m looking for a job” and there was worry that a present employer would see the posting. Today, fortunately, those concerns should no longer exist. Regardless of field of employment or level, everyone should be on LinkedIn - and with a well-branded, carefully developed profile. Think of it as your own professional website. Some key strategies to consider:

#1) Ignore LI’s “recommendation” that you bring your profile up to 100% completeness “by uploading your resume.” Resist the urge and, instead, capture the scope of each of your positions in one or two concise lines and share a top accomplishment/value-add per position… but don’t put all the content of your resume on LI. You want to cultivate interest and have a reason to bring the discussion off line as quickly as possible with an interested party (”I like what I see here on LI, can you share your resume with me?”).

#2) Spend the lion’s share of your effort in creating a personable, compelling, carefully branded summary section. Let your professional personality shine! Use first-person narrative (UNLIKE a resume).

#3) Ensure you have a great, professional-looking headshot. You should definitely “dress to impress” in your best interview look, paying close attention to your selection of shirt/blouse and suit jacket color to be most flattering. Then be certain the background does not compete (no trees or lamps growing out of the back of your head). And photograph ONLY you in this headshot (not from a party you attended, not holding a child or pet).

#4) Collect recommendations, ideally from previous managers. Depending on field, vendors and clients/customers can also be contacted. Try to avoid peer recommendations.

#5) Do not “worry about” endorsements… they carry nowhere near the weight of the recommendations.

#6) Connect broadly and widely! For your network to be valuable, it needs to be robust (for someone brand-new to LI, I advise a minimum of 125 quality connections: people you know and/or with whom you’ve been solidly connected and introduced).

– Jan Melnik, M.A., MRW, CCM, CPRW - President, Absolute Advantage

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04/15/13
So, you want to be a writer?
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 12:51 pm

As more than a few clients have asked, “Jan, how is that novel of yours doing?” - I thought I’d share where things stand today.

Actually, I already did that, in a guest blog for a respected writer, Sandi Kahn Shelton. With the NCAA basketball tournament in full gear at the time, that became the theme for my blog.

Quick update: I completed “Telling Tales: On Merlin’s Island” some months ago, have spent sporadic time editing, and was encouraged to enter my first work of fiction (seven published books already, but all nonfiction) in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest back in January. To my surprise, I have continued to make each month’s cut… winnowing the pool of possible candidates from 10,000 down to… 100 as of today ;)

If you’re curious, you can visit Amazon for a free download of the excerpt … http://tinyurl.com/c4n5cwn

Here’s the synopsis (pitch) that got me through the first gate back in January:

Telling Tales: On Merlin’s island (Jan LaFountain Melnik)

As she rounded the corner behind the woodpile still buried beneath last night’s snowfall, she could hear Jeff speaking sternly to someone. There was an urgency to his tone and she realized he was on the phone. Her pace slowed and she found herself almost catatonic as she heard, “I told you not to call after 6, ever. I’ll see you tonight.” The perfect world she believed she’d been living in was suddenly a snow globe turned upside down.

* * * * *

At 31, Nicole Ferris Kemper finds her happily-ever-after dissolving when she is betrayed by her husband. She decides to start over by leaving the Boston suburbs and moving with her standard poodle, Molly, to her family’s cottage on Merlin’s Island. An elementary school teacher, Nicole lands a job at one of Maine’s few island schools. There she connects with folks from her childhood summers as well as someone from her grandfather’s past when she discovers letters from the final year of World War II in the attic of what was originally her grandparents’ cottage. Hidden among the many missives her grandfather had written to his mother during the war were letters of a different sort: Love letters from a woman who was not her grandmother.

Unable to resist her penchant for bad boys, Nicole tries to purge the taste of her soured marriage through a series of flings in what would become a carnal journey. She is surprised, though, to find herself attracted to a caring, considerate man—someone unlike the guys to which she was typically drawn. At the same time, she grapples with the death of her overly controlling mother and their unresolved issues all while trying to adjust to living alone and settling into a new job. Sifting through her grandfather’s letters, Nicole becomes mesmerized by a one-sided account of what clearly had been a passionate love. She works to uncover the mystery and in doing so recognizes that lust and love are not mutually exclusive.

Then there’s the book’s description (sort of the why-did-you-decide-to-write-this-novel that got me through another contest hurdle):

Description: A fictional island in the middle of Sebago Lake, Maine, Merlin’s Island is patterned loosely on Frye Island, but with a year-round population and a small K-12 school (similar to several island schools off Maine’s coast).

The story line follows a school year (September–June) and takes place in 2009–2010. A secondary story line alternates between the present day and the final year of World War II, 1945 (90% of the novel is in the present and just 10% is in 1945).

An underlying catalyst for this novel were letters written by my father, a WWII vet, who is now 88 years old. These letters had been saved by his mother/my grandmother and served as a rich source of authentic material for the flashback chapters. Those chapters expand considerably beyond the letters with action/narrative both in the European theatre of WWII as well as ‘back home’ in a rural Vermont village.

With my dad’s permission, I use approximately half a dozen of these colorful letters in the novel (my dad was—and is—a talented and interesting storyteller, writer, and orator), altering only the names of people. While I have nearly 75 letters available, this novel is not a collection of letters; rather, select letters are shared to advance a fictional plot that began 60 years earlier. They provide a historically accurate and vivid backdrop to the stage on which a purely fictional story line develops.

I began work on this novel more than four years ago, with the idea that Nicole’s journey would speak primarily to today’s female audience. However, the elements of erotica in the novel bring a dimension to her character that is relevant and timely given the broad popularity of novels such as the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

And if you’re interested in how the whole contest has unfolded (and what’s at stake), these are the details!

http://booksnewhaven.wordpress.com

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09/10/12
Back from Hiatus… CCM Renewal
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 8:18 am

After a break from blogging of a few months, I’m happy to report (a) I have finally completed my first novel, “Telling Tales: On Merlin’s Island” (stay tuned for details of availability on Amazon.com) and (b) I’ve recently earned renewal of my CCM: Credentialed Career Manager designation. I’m one of a group of just 30 CCMs worldwide.

Individuals who hold the CCM intersect a wide range of the career services industry and include career coaches, career counselors, resume writers, outplacement professionals, college and university career services professionals, military and government career transition specialists, human resources and organizational development professionals, staffing and workforce management professionals, recruiters, executive coaches, and others who work in the careers industry.

To earn the CCM renewal, I submitted a portfolio documenting my professional credentials, more than 30 hours of continuing professional development (this included completion of my Master of Arts degree in May 2011 from Wesleyan University), and a demonstrated commitment to sharing time, talents, knowledge, and expertise through industry leadership, publications, presentations, and pro bono work. I’ve held the CCM for the past decade (renewed every two years). To stay competitive, my clients need to know the latest strategies, trends, and best practices in career management. The CCM credential not only reflects my mastery in these areas, it allows me to ‘give back’ through volunteerism, public speaking, and other avenues.

The Career Thought Leaders Consortium, the credentialing body for this designation, is a think-tank of career industry leaders working collaboratively to support both colleagues and job seekers worldwide by providing expert leadership and innovation throughout all phases of career development, job search/resume writing, long-term career management, and career fulfillment. Founded and directed by industry leader and multi-published author Wendy Enelow, the Career Thought Leaders Consortium is recognized as a catalyst for the now, the new, and the next in careers.

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06/17/11
Reaching a Goal
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 6:02 am

I’ve been on hiatus from my blog (not my clients, not my private practice, and certainly not my family)… simply because “something had to give.” This past spring I was in the final push to complete my master’s degree and write my culminating project.

I can happily report that after three-and-one-half years of diligent, rigorous effort, I earned my Master of Arts degree (Humanities) from Wesleyan University on May 22… summa cum laude. When researching graduate school programs, I knew I wanted to study at a respected institution with a solid liberal arts foundation. With two undergraduate degrees in business, I wanted to complement my own foundation with advanced studies in a different discipline.

Ranked #12 nationwide by US News & World Reports/National Liberal Arts Colleges, Wesleyan is considered a baby ivy (part of the “little three,” along with Williams and Amherst). The fact that I could pursue my graduate degree with acclaimed faculty on a gorgeous brick-and-mortar campus just 15 minutes from my home was especially appealing. Sign me up! It wasn’t exactly that easy, of course. I needed to secure letters of recommendation from previous professors and write several lengthy essays in order to matriculate (the writing part, for me, was fun!). Of course, there was the small matter of about $20K in tuition and several thousand more in books (not a blink when you consider my three sons were all undergraduates themselves at private universities at the time). But I was intent on going.

What an experience! For any adult professional who has been away from the classroom for more than a decade or two and who has possibly postponed or even abandoned the idea of graduate school (or perhaps returning to school to complete an undergraduate degree), I heartily recommend it. The chance to revitalize critical thinking skills from the perspective of academia is a real rush. This is particularly the case when in a classroom (physical, in my case, or virtual, as is the case with many universities and colleges nationwide) surrounded by peers that range in age from 22 to 82 (seriously: in one of my grad school classes, a woman older than me wheeled her elderly mother to class for every meeting. Why? This feisty octogenarian had a passion for learning that simply wouldn’t quit, even though her mobility had ceased). Beyond incredible opportunities for learning (a chance to revisit some of the great authors of the previous two millennia, from Dickens to Steinbeck — if you haven’t read Grapes of Wrath since high school, as I had not, I urge you to take another look!), the rigor of a structured academic program, hundreds of pages of required reading each week, and the demands of producing new material (written, photographic, artistic) on an ongoing basis forced a discipline that is invigorating. Networking with fellow students — and creating valued friendships that will endure for a lifetime — was an added plus. (The opportunity to attract and work with new clients, from fellow students to my professors, was a big bonus for my private practice!)

All said, I’d do this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’ve begun preliminary research into a doctoral program. But I’ve promised my husband to hold off a few years — at least till our youngest graduates from Brandeis — before I spend any more big bucks on my education. In the meantime, I’ve doubled-up efforts to complete my first novel and am aggressively pursuing opportunities as an adjunct professor (a long-time goal of mine: to teach in a formal college program). The winter should bring some lovely opportunities.

Meanwhile, I urge each of you (whoever is reading this blog) to consider your long-time dreams, those shelved ideas, the idled wishes you’ve never quite given the proper focus. Now’s the time. A million cliches apply: It’s never too late. Carpe diem (with thanks to my first of now three alma maters, Bay Path College). Make the day yours!

– Jan Melnik, M.A., MRW, CCM, CPRW — President, Absolute Advantage

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01/01/11
A New Year: A New Job?
Filed under: Job Search, Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 7:24 pm

1-1-11… Anyone remember Three Dog Night’s “One Is the Loneliest Number?”, Harry Nilsson’s song they made famous in 1969? Well, in 2011, the number one certainly will not be lonely. Whether it’s today - January 1 - or on January 11 - or on November 1 or November 11 - “one” will have lots of company! As should you if you’re engaged in an active job search or even thinking of exploring the possibilities as a New Year’s Resolution.

What are the easiest ways not to be alone? Of course, social networking should be your first go-to strategy; ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and that you take advantage of the space there to communicate your unique value proposition - use the summary, specialties, and career history. Maximize your outreach, connecting with as many people as possible.

If you’re on Facebook, use this forum for more casual connections with people you know and want to know. Ensure your posts reflect the ‘you’ others would want to refer!

Consider (strongly) tweeting - establish a Twitter account and have something to say! Offer information, volunteer contacts, and feel free to ask others about connections they may have.

Explore job-leads clubs and other in-person networking activities in your professional industry and in your neighborhood and surrounding communities. Be active, be visible, be known.

Take advantage of the turn in the calendar to rejuvenate a sluggish search or start a new job search: Put in place an aggressive plan to make things happen!

Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW - President, Absolute Advantage

Be inspired. It’s your career. It’s your life.

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12/31/09
A Personal Note to Close Out the Year
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 9:25 am

2009… a year that I can honestly say I’m happy to leave behind. For my year-end message, I’m going to wrap up with a few personal thoughts - then refocus on career management and job-search issues for my first post of 2010.

This has been an especially difficult, all-consuming year — even for me, the consummate optimist! Following my mom’s massive stroke and concurrent heart attack on February 22, 2009, my family and I watched her truly awful decline for nearly eight long months (she was paralyzed and had lost the ability to speak and eat with the stroke). It was a horrendous way to see someone you love die. And yet, in trying to see the ’silver lining’ of every cloud, it gave us daily opportunities (through one-way dialogue — that we knew she understood) to share memories, recall dreams, discuss virtually everything. Precious, yet painful. With wonderful care from hospice and her beloved family at her side, she died on October 5, 2009.

The last two months I’ve been ‘wrapped up’ with a month of intensive PT that resulted, unfortunately, in the need for surgery on a torn rotator cuff, injured in transporting/caring for Mom. A bittersweet reminder, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’ll be back at work mid-January… and able to drive by the end of the month. My surgeon is confident I’ll have full use of my shoulder/arm following four months of physical therapy — I can’t wait to get started!

So as I consider my year-end message — and my New Year’s resolution — I’m reminded by a dear friend and colleague of Emily Dickinson, a lifelong favorite poet: “Dwell in Possibility.” I intend to do just that — and urge every reader to find their own mantra, something that resonates with the values you hold dear as you think fondly of the past and plan with passion for the future.

On to career management, job search, and exciting employment trends in 2010 in my next post.

All best,
Jan Melnik

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01/17/08
Finding Your Leadership \”Sweet Spot\”
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 2:33 pm

… or your "True North." That’s the title of Harvard B-school professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George’s newest book. I had an opportunity to participate in a teleseminar with Bill today, courtesy of the Leadership Coach Academy and Susan Britton Whitcomb/Nancy Branton.

Bill shared five key dimensions for achieving authentic leadership:

1) you need to be clear about the purpose of leadership

2) you need to practice values consistently

3) you must lead with your heart, not just your head

4) you must build long-term connected relationships

5) you must be able to lead with a sense of self-discipline

He says that the real challenge is how a leader stays true to their values and principles in the face of adversity or when there are great pressures from the outside world or when there are competing demands/seductions that pull a leader off course. "True North" explores staying on course with one’s own compass.

He advocates that leaders develop the following in themselves to help ensure success:

1) high level of self-awareness … using feedback from others to see one’s self as others see us

2) practice values under pressure … many hold back and think they can develop outside the arena

3) understanding motivations: extrinsic (money, fame, power, glory) and intrinsic (help others, develop, make difference in the world, develop self, take on causes)

*** If you are able to combine these motivations with your greatest capabilities, you’ll achieve your "sweet spot."

4) areas of development: how one builds long-term relationships … having strong support team around – leadership can be very lonely – we all need people to support us in difficult times … having mentors is key or a support group

5) leading an integrated life … can’t sacrifice personal life – integrate in all aspects of life, personal, family, work, active in community - balance

Bill stated that, without question, the hardest person one ever has to lead is yourself. If you can do all these things and be positioned to empower others around a sense of purpose and what you (team) want(s) to do, you are well on the road to effective leadership.

-- Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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06/14/07
A Whirlwind Year!
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 7:17 am

Once or twice a year, I use this forum to do a little updating … partially to respond to client queries who’ve come to know me/my family and partly to chronicle somewhere a few of the milestones of life. Hey, it’s my blog and I can say what I like, right? Unlike several of the professional blogs to which I contribute regularly, I do occasionally like to take to the soapbox and just write about whatever topics are on my mind at a given point in time.

My off-topic musings this time are over the incredible speed with which the recent (academic) year has passed. Seemed only a few months ago that I was describing the successful conclusion of an active year-long college search, application process, etc. with my twins — and lo and behold — they are home now for the summer! They’ve *been* home for a month already, leaving their younger brother to pine for the day when he, too, can be a college guy and out of school in May.

The twins had a spectacular first year away at college … strong academic results, smooth adjustment to living independently (in a residence hall) and adapting to a third roommate, and ready acclimation to participating in three seasons of Division I sports while getting the grades. We’re proud of them … and probably most delighted that they are truly happy with their entire experience. It’s what parents most hope for, I think.

Spring was especially busy in the offices of the Absolute Advantage as I interspersed my client schedule with a new book project. This one is in an entirely new-to-me vein in terms of publishing, but one with which I have a great deal of familiarity: The college search process. The book, being published by JIST in August 2007, is "One-Hour College Application Essay." In addition to sharing many success secrets for college searching, visiting, and applications in general, I focus primarily on the essay itself — considered by many prospective college students to be the most vexing part of the entire process! Two parts of this project were especially rewarding: Developing wonderful relationships with some of the top admissions experts at respected universities throughout the country and getting to know, very well, many talented college students and understanding the processes they underwent in developing their own applications and essays. All of this will prove incredibly valuable as son #3 begins HIS application-writing process this summer (he begins his senior year and will be deeply immersed in college applications in just a few months).

Stay tuned … I’ll be posting some powerful new search ideas and strategies for careerists all summer long — around some much-needed vacation time at the Cape and in Germany. Happy trails!

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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12/20/06
Deep in December, It\’s Nice to Remember …
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 7:29 am

It’s December 20th … and the temperature is finally in the seasonal 20s, where it should be. Anyone remember “Try to Remember” from one of the longest running shows on Broadway, “The Fantasticks”? I remember singing this song in glee club in college … and love it every bit as much today. There’s a stanza in the song that goes like this:

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Altho’ you know that snow will follow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember
The fire of September that made us mellow.

Deep in December our hearts should remember,
And follow…

As I remember, this December and the entire year of 2006, I’m grateful for wonderful clients, appreciative for the opportunity to work with such an inspiring, motivated, and talented group. I’m grateful for an excellent publisher, a superb editor, and another exciting book project. I’m grateful for a wonderful family and the best friends anyone could ask for. Looking ahead to the new year, I’m filled with hope and promise — for many happy returns, wonderful new opportunities, and wishes of health and happiness for those near and far. Happy Holidays!

– Jan

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10/10/06
Nike Has It Right
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 3:35 pm

Have you ever stopped to really think about Nike’s simple yet compelling slogan? Just do it. Three words. Eight characters. You can’t get much more basic than this. But, wow, the weight it carries! Whichever ad agency coined that should have bargained for residuals.

Lately I’ve observed more than a few folks not quite ready to take the plunge–the plunge into active, purposeful job search. Oh, they are ready. Very ready. They’ve done their due diligence, perfected their resumes, honed interview skills, and prepared a number of key documents designed to accelerate their searches. Many have committed–at least on paper–to a strategy for their search. There’s a plan in place. There’s even the will, the desire.

What’s missing? The execution. The drive to carry out all the steps that have been committed to and planned. I sometimes think it’s fear of success (not failure) that contributes to this inactivity. ("What if I get an offer? How do I negotiate? What if they want me to start next week? I don’t know if I’m ready to go back quite yet …")

All important concerns, of course, but not one is insurmountable. Don’t let fear of success prevent you from getting fully into the game. Just do it.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … Don’t forget to check out http://careerhub.typepad.com for the best in career search advice from the career industry’s top experts and http://careers.beyond.com for valuable career management expertise

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06/19/06
Giving Back … to Our Veterans
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 5:37 am

This past week, I participated as a volunteer in the Heroes for Hire program held at Fenway Park. I was there to provide pro bono services to our veterans (going back as far as WWII, in one instance, up to the current timeframe: Vets returning from Iraq). The program was a joint collaboration between The Boston Globe ("Boston Works") and The New York Times and dubbed a career fair. Many top employers from the Greater Boston area were in attendance and I was privileged to be a part of a group of four professionals providing complimentary resume critique services to the men and women of our military.

I was incredibly rewarded for my time listening to the stories of accomplishment that are so important to a well-written resume. But set against a backdrop of having served our country in a myriad of ways–in many instances, these men and women had put themselves directly in harm’s way and some were still recovering from injuries incurred in the line of battle–these achievements were even more noteworthy.

The caliber of these dedicated, successful, and highly accomplished (and decorated) professionals was astounding. I was humbled in their presence and delighted to do my small part to help make their transition to the civilian world of employment a little easier.

My thought for today–and it relates to virtually every job-seeker: What have you done for someone else to help advance their career or job search? Sometimes it’s offering advice … or a contact phone number or e-mail … occasionally it is the tangible job lead … and often it’s the voice of encouragement and support that success is waiting right around the corner.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … Don’t forget to check out careerhub.typepad.com for the best in career search advice from the career industry’s top experts 

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04/25/06
College-search Chapter Closes …
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 11:26 am

So many clients have asked about my kids’ college-search results and final plans that I felt compelled to post a quick update. As many folks probably know, May 1 is the classic deadline by which college-bound high school seniors must advise the college they’ve selected with a written commitment — and the first of many checks to bind that decision. As of April 24th, my twin sons finally made what I am absolutely convinced were extremely well-thought-out, careful, and conscientious decisions.

Just a bit of background … we started early in the game (yes, it really is a game — and there are many, many rules to learn!). They began preliminary searches and drive-by visits the summer following their sophomore year. These two being our oldest, we wanted to ensure there’d be plenty of time. By junior year, they really got serious. In addition to SAT and ACT testing as well as polishing their resumes (naturally:), they began digging around on the Internet and coming up with possible schools to match academic areas of interest. A number of interviews and open houses were visited during February and April vacations … and in the summer following their junior year, they diligently developed several essays that they’d continue to refine to accompany applications. More visits ensued during the summer before the start of senior year and these extended not only into the fall, but as recent as last week (April vacation!) when we revisited a few of the finalists.

All applications were completed, letters of recommendations sought, and paperwork in by the last week in November (they each applied to six or seven schools). Then, following a nice Division I recruiting effort in February, there were a few additional ‘last-minute’ applications this spring. More visits … in some cases, top contenders were visited three and four times. The boys each had a spreadsheet going, ranking things important to them: strength of academic program, "feel"/fit of the campus in general, relationship/rapport with coaches (both do indoor/outdoor track; one also does cross-country; the football player is taking a bye freshman year), and, finally, sticker price. This last criterion is not to be confused with ‘actual’ price. We learned that there are many wonderful scholarship and grant opportunities available that can significantly reduce that initial ‘kick in the gut’ reaction to the posted price (especially when considered ‘times two’!).

In the end (between the time of the first acceptance — at the end of December — and the final acceptance — at the beginning of April), my husband and I were delighted to see how methodical these guys were in selecting what would be best for them. Although they had just a few schools to which they’d applied in common (one is pursuing engineering, the other — business management), it was a delightful surprise when they both settled on the same school. We’ll soon be sporting bumper stickers on our vehicles that say, "Our Twins and Our Money Are Going to the University of Hartford."

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … Don’t forget to check out careerhub.typepad.com for the best in career search advice from the career industry’s top experts

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03/07/06
Whirlwind College Tour
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 5:09 pm

Despite my most fervent attempts to be timely with my blog postings, real life has gotten in the way the past six weeks. My twins, who are seniors, have been dashing about the country (separately, but with mom closely at their heels) viewing college campuses, being interviewed by admissions and interested coaches, and attempting to gather critical information on which to base that all-important decision: which college to attend this fall. It certainly brings back memories … how did those years pass so quickly?

Here’s what I’m learning … colleges and universities market to students and parents in much the same way that job seekers market themselves to prospective employers. There are the tools of the trade (Colleges: brochures, pamphlets, follow-up letters, e-mail … Job Seekers: resumes, Critical Leadership Initiative documents, cover letters, follow-up e-mail). There are the financial elements of “a decision” (Colleges: the fully loaded fee [tuition, room, board, books–a considerably bigger line item than when I was in school!], minus the scholarship amount, minus the grant amount, to net a still pretty big number … Job Seekers: the initial posturing, “what range are you looking at?” “what range did you have in mind for this level of responsibility?” negotiating to a mutually satisfactory level, building in perqs, etc.). And there’s the whole aspect of — is it right for me? (The college … and the job! The campus environment … and the work environment! The major/academic program … and the title/likelihood of advancement!)

While a competent job-search coach and someone who has been advising clients effectively for more than 20 years, I’m working hard to “hold back” on giving my viewpoint when it comes to conversations with my sons. Both my husband and I are trying to let them feel their way through the process to what we believe will be a very satisfactory outcome. Of course, when asked, we can’t help but provide the benefit of our years of wisdom and experience! But our sons are wisely and confidently pursuing their own paths in a very competent fashion, one that we’re very comfortable with.

The best part of this process? (Besides learning so much about how it’s all changed in the past few decades?) Within two months, final decisions will be made and we can celebrate the last few months we’re intact as a family before our soon-to-be college freshmen head out into the collegiate world.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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12/30/05
Here\’s to a Brilliant 2006!
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 6:53 pm

It’s countdown to the start of 2006 … and I’d like to wish each of my treasured clients a spectacular start to the new year — one filled with rewarding moments with valued friends and family, one abundant in good health and prosperity, and one with rewarding work in your chosen field.

To those individuals with whom I’ve not yet had an opportunity to work, may the waning moments of 2005 offer time for reflection and thanks … and a chance to consider all your future goals, career and otherwise.

I am most thankful to enjoy truly wonderful clients and a chance to help people shape their futures … I am most thankful for excellent health and an incredibly optimistic outlook … I am most thankful for an incredible family and kind, caring friends … I am most thankful for the little things, too (two adoring "furry" friends, Julie and Lily … the successful wrap-up this week of my first collaborative book project with my lifelong best friend and valued colleague, Louise Kursmark … and excellent projects already on my plate to begin the new year with renewed energy and enthusiasm!).

With kind regards to everyone for the very best 2006 has to offer, I remain most sincerely yours,

Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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07/11/05
Summertime …
Filed under: Musings
Posted by: site admin @ 5:49 am

and the livin’ is easy (or should be). A favorite song from one of my favorite musicals, Porgy and Bess, this tune just forces you to kick back and think of summer’s delightful season. In nearly every piece of print media you pick up in July, you’ll find a top-10 or best tips list devoted to summer.

Making an informal survey this month of the 20 or so trade journals and magazines to which I subscribe, I found no fewer than four exact duplicates of a quote I used myself in a previous year’s summer issue of a newsletter I publish for those in my industry (The Word Advantage). The quote, from Henry James, is, “Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon … the two most beautiful words in the English language.” That, combined with all the “best things to do in July” lists that keep appearing, made me reconsider the glories of a summer afternoon from the standpoint of job search and careers in general. So here’s my list of perfect things to do in July relative to your career:

1. Retool your resume’s qualifications profile. Even if you’re not actively engaged in a search, consider these questions: Does it demonstrate the value I bring to a prospective employer (even my current one?)? Is my unique “value proposition” succinctly and clearly shown? Are those distinctive qualities and attributes I possess precisely delineated? Would “I be interested” in talking to me after a 10-second read of the qualifications profile?

2. Make a mid-year resolution to learn a new skill - or use one you have already acquired, but allowed to get “rusty.” For instance, still plagued by fear-of-PowerPoint? Then investigate an adult ed class in your community (likely to start right after Labor Day) or register for a similar class through an online or community college. Already taken a program in Excel, but never put it to use? Make a commitment to spend an hour or two one evening a week practicing and really learning to use it. And pick something useful to do with it (i.e., put your household budget [or a section of it - college planning, investments, etc.] on Excel … create a table with names/contact info for key colleagues, and so forth).

3. Decide to read one “recommended” build-your-career/management style book before the end of summer. At virtually all levels of management within most organizations, it has become nearly impossible to avoid the importance of understanding brand and how it relates to personal success and business success. Consider throwing a copy of Scott Bedbury’s A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century in your carryon or beach bag. Bedbury was instrumental to the meteoric rise of both Starbucks and Nike. Maybe Winning (Jack Welch, Suzy Welch) will provide the motivational zing as GE’s former chief espouses the notions of “lead, don’t manage.” If you’re a fan of the habits of Stephen Covey, definitely read The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. It’s almost a personal blueprint for branding-with-meaning.

4. Rejuvenate your business and casual-biz wardrobe with summer sales, especially if you have a few extra days off from work over the summer. And if you are in aggressive search mode, consider revamping your personal image and wardrobe.

5. Whether job searching or not, build your ideal position wishlist — listing every must-have and want-to-have for future consideration when negotiating comp packages. Be liberal. Dream large.

6. Reconnect — with those in your networking groups, those in your circles of influence, and, especially, those whom you truly care about.

Summer’s the perfect time to adopt a slightly different lens through which to look at everything that really matters. The change of perspective (physical or attitude) may be just the thing you (and your career) need!

Happy summer.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

 

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