Occasionally, people ask me what methods I use to come up with the blog topics I write about. And while I tend to derive inspiration from a number of different sources, I tell people that there’s one primary mantra I try to follow every time I pull an article together: “What can I write about job hunting and career transition that isn’t already patently obvious — or hasn’t already been talked about a thousand times over the years, by everybody else?”
On this note, I was recently catching up on some industry reading and couldn’t help noticing that many of the articles seemed to rehash basic advice that, to me, came across as almost insultingly obvious to the average professional. Now granted, I may be a bit too close to these issues given what I do for a living, so maybe my perception of what’s “obvious” on the job search front isn’t a valid measurement for the general public. But even taking my own professional bias into account, I still flagged six pieces of advice that I think we might all safely agree are “no-brainers” these days.
Here’s my list — for whatever it’s worth:
#1. You should turn your cell phone ringer off when meeting with somebody
Sure, there are always exceptions. Perhaps a plumber is desperately trying to fix an emergency leak at your house or your wife is due to go into labor any moment. But beyond these rare exceptions, which you can warn your conversation partner about in advance, can’t we all agree that it’s rude to leave your cell phone on (or even worse, to actually take a phone call) when you’re in a meeting with somebody? To me, this isn’t something people should need to be reminded of anymore given that we’ve all had the chance to come to grips with cell phone etiquette for at least a decade now. And as for those occasional times you forget and your phone accidentally rings in a meeting, no worries, just apologize for the distraction — and immediately turn it off.
#2. You should avoid posting embarrassing photos/things on the Internet
I see this tip posted on various career sites, time after time, and it always makes me scratch my head a little. Haven’t we all witnessed enough “Michael Phelps” moments over the years to realize that anything we post on Facebook, social media, or the web at large might someday become embarrassingly public? I suppose this advice might largely be targeted at teenagers who don’t quite yet realize that their online reputation will follow them around for the rest of their life, but still, warning people about this issue still seems a bit trite, to me. I’d hope that most folks have figured out by now that the web is far from a private medium and that you probably shouldn’t post anything on the Internet you wouldn’t want a co-worker or potential employer prospect to stumble across!
#3. You should research companies thoroughly prior to interviewing with them
I’d be a happy man if I never had to read this advice again, at least in a “generalized” sense. While perhaps this was an important technique to stress back in the pre-Internet days, when conducting research required a special trip to the library, it should now be universally understood that any serious job candidate needs to bone up on the employer they’re going to be chatting with prior to any phone or face-to-face interviewing conversation. So while articles recommending specific research sites and tools to use can be helpful, the basic reminder to “research a company” in the first place seems like one we should all have engrained in our professional repertoire by now.
#4. You shouldn’t search for work using a “weird” e-mail address
Accuse me of being a party-pooper, if you will. But I believe it goes without saying that serious professionals should avoid searching for work using a potentially controversial e-mail address like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Nuff said.
#5. You should follow up with people and thank them if they help you
There’s nothing new (or all that complicated) when it comes to the importance of practicing good manners. The Golden Rule has been around at least a thousand years or two, after all. As a result, I’d hope everybody has figured out by now that thanking people properly for their time and assistance is an essential ingredient in building healthy, effective relationships. And yet, each time I think we’ve outlived the need for emphasizing this point, I’ll have an acquaintance complain that they provided somebody with an introduction, an informational interview, or a special favor of some kind and never got properly thanked by the recipient. Or that they provided a personal referral, but never heard back if it was acted upon or led to anything. So please join with me and do your part to help us eliminate the need to keep stressing this age-old guideline.
#6. You should go to great pains to ensure there are no typos on your resume
Last but not least, in terms of a career-related tip that’s waaaaay overdue (IMHO) to be put out to pasture, there’s the issue of making sure one’s resume is free from typos before sending it out. It’s not that this has ceased to be an issue on the job hunting circuit, mind you. Plenty of resumes are still riddled with spelling errors. But to have to remind people to proofread their resume, time after time, really shouldn’t be necessary. Everyone should realize by now that spellcheckers are far from infallible and that typos are the kiss-of-death to a resume in today’s competitive market. Along these lines, just for kicks, I recently ran a search on LinkedIn and discovered that over 127,000 people have used the word “manger” somewhere on their profile. So unless small wooden baby cribs have suddenly become a major growth industry, it’s safe to assume that a huge number of people simply misspelled the word “manager” without realizing it. Along these same lines, I also turned up 946 residents of the “Untied States of America” and an individual boasting of her superior “creative writhing” skills — despite no indication she’d had formal training as a bellydancer.
So there you have it. Six pieces of career advice I wish we all could just agree go without saying from now until time immemorial. Thanks for listening to my rant — and as always, feel free to weigh in with your comments if you disagree with my assessment or think up any other “no-brainer” job hunting advice you’re tired of seeing get published, time after time!