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Archive for the ‘Employment Skills’ Category

Do Your Homework: Critical Research When Considering a Career Move

UntitledYou’ve finally decided to consider career options and commit to your quest for an employment change. You’ve updated all of your job application documents and social media platforms with your current employment information and accolades. Aside from the information posted in the job description, have you really considered what your potential employer is TRULY seeking in a job candidate AND how competitive/creative candidates are expected to present themselves?

After working with a talented client, our plans for a simple resume update evolved into an intriguing project exploring the “soft skill” essentials of his potential suitor company within the global fashion industry.

We discovered that employees were “chatting” online about their corporate experiences, how to land a job, and what personality traits and passions candidates possessed that the employer was intent on hiring.   Absolutely none of this “golden” material was posted by a recruiter – we had to dig for it.

Our Findings 2


  • The company sought out individuals who thought on their feet, applied creative problem solving, and used all of their networks at their disposal to get things done.
  • Recruiters were interested in candidates who were able to display a unique passion for the beauty and fashion industry.
  • Employees felt deeply connected to the organization. They relished the opportunity to discuss their work on a deep level with colleagues, fashioning camaraderie.
  • The company incorporated third-party development programs that decreased voluntary employee turnover and continued to give the organization a leading edge over the competition.



  • Read company press releases. Identify what companies they partner with.
  • “Like” all associated social media platforms and engage in conversation by asking questions or providing positive feedback on a service or product (your name may get recognized by someone on a hiring panel).
  • Actively browse through related social media platforms to stay on top of the corporate news, events, and product lines.
  • Create a video – yes with you in it – as a supplement to your resume or cover letter. The more artistic the company is, the more appropriate this will be!
  • Pick out a concept, program, or product belonging to the potential employer that you personally connect with and plan to incorporate this into your cover letter. Cover letters are boring. Period. You can change that with your content and truly pique the reader’s interest. This also serves as a great talking point when you’re called for an interview!

Goal: Don’t let your application package sound and look like everyone else’s. DIG for information. Show them you’ve done your homework not just to make a powerful impression but also to truly find engaging, value-driven employment.





Just landed a new job? Time to prep for the next one!

ID-100248984My next job you say?  Yes, that’s exactly what I said.  The job after this one.  For most successful career job seekers, the job search trend is to seek out an employment change about every two to three years whether it be working for a new organization or competing for an internal promotion.

So how do you start to prepare now?

Save your job description and original job vacancy announcement

  • These documents will come in handy when updating your resume with recent employment information.

Retain your performance evaluations and written recognition

  • Resume writers love to brag on their clients and highlight unique and noteworthy achievements. Unfortunately this area is challenging for many of my clients who spend precious time trying to locate or recreate these key documents and accomplishments.
  • If you are fortunate to receive a written or emailed compliment from a customer or client, request that your supervisor provide a copy of it for your records. These make great references when adding achievement-related content to a resume especially if they are measurable. Numbers demonstrate immediate value.

Keep a running list of on-the-job training

  • Did you attend an advanced spreadsheet workshop that increased overall reporting efficiency and performance? Do tell!
  • If the training is relevant to future job interests, you will want to make note of dates, general course information, location of the training, and course duration to either incorporate into the application process or as part of a resume update, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile build.

This process can be as easy as putting it all in a binder with labeled tabs and keeping it in a desk drawer at work. Some folks call it their “brag book”, or for a more muted and discrete approach, call it your “achievement record” .

However you elect to do it, it will benefit you in the long run.  You’ll want to thank me for it when the time comes!

Enjoy the new job!


Job Reference Etiquette – The DOs and DON’Ts

Has an employer ever asked you for a list of references?  Were you prepared?  Did you notify your references in advance?  Did you provide favorable and verifiable professional references?  If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may need a quick refresher on the proper etiquette of providing job references to potential employers.

As both a seasoned hiring manager and recruiter, I have been privy to various blunders that job candidates make when providing references.  Here are some of the most common:

  1. The candidate fails to provide favorable and verifiable PROFESSIONAL references.  These include contacts that can verify information on traits and characteristics of the job candidate, are available for comment, can mention the employee’s specific contributions to the workplace, and have favorable comments to make concerning his/her work history.  Most recruiters don’t consider personal references favorable to their screening process.
  2. Candidates provide recruiters with the number to Human Resources.  What most candidates don’t realize is that a lot of HR departments have strong policies limiting the information they divulge to potential employers with the exception of verifying basic employment information.  It’s best to provide a contact such as a former supervisor or client who can speak to the performance of the job candidate.
  3. The applicant fails to make contact, obtain consent from, and notify their ideal references.  It looks bad when a provided reference wasn’t expecting the call.  It is always best for an applicant to notify a potential reference that they are seeking employment and mention their interest in using their name as a reference.  In addition, ask what number they’d prefer to be reached at and what time would be best for the recruiter to make contact.  This allows the referral to make some notes and prepare for the call as well as to avoid being surprised by the call when it’s received.
  4. The applicant does not provide a quality amount of references.  If the employer asks for three professional references, provide five.  A recruiter’s position is to fill the position quickly and if he/she has to wait for a reference to return his/her call, it only delays the hiring process.  Provide at least two more references to be proactive in the event that the initial references are not available when the recruiter tries to connect with them.

So what are the qualifications of a good reference?  An ideal reference should be able to provide the following:

  1. Share how long the candidate and referral have shared a professional relationship
  2. Provide specific information relating to the candidate’s traits, overall performance and how it compared to other employees, and detailed information on their impact on and contributions to the workplace
  3. Highlight any special qualifications that made the candidate stand out amongst peers and briefly summarize the candidate’s strengths

The ideal reference should be someone who has evaluated the applicant either as a supervisor, manager, or client.  This person should demonstrate a strong ability to communicate and articulate vivid details regarding the candidate’s professional characteristics.  Peers generally do not make good references and neither do supervisors from fifteen years ago.

Should all references be previous supervisors or managers?  Not necessarily.  If the candidate is worried about getting a bad reference, it doesn’t hurt to call that supervisor and politely express his/her concern based on what may have happened on the job.  Chances are the supervisor will be honest – either he/she will provide a positive reference or encourage the candidate to avoid using them as a reference.  If the candidate does not trust the previous supervisor to provide a positive or neutral reference, then avoid that person all together.

In lieu of using a previous supervisor as a reference, the applicant can potentially use another department or division manager as a strong reference.  A lot of times department managers call on other departments to help resolve problems.  How often did this candidate come to the rescue?  What was their impact?  Or… was the candidate part of a project team?  What was his/her impact on the overall project, timeline, and team?

There are also plenty of cases where overachievers and strong performers in the workplace lack the support of their direct supervisors, creating an unpleasant work environment, not necessarily being the fault of the applicant.  In this case, avoid using this type of supervisor as a reference. If he/she didn’t demonstrate support on the job, chances are he/she won’t change their behavior as a reference.

So how should a candidate go about providing references to a potential employer?

  1. Contact and confirm potential references before applying for employment.  Follow the recommended criteria for selecting ideal referrals, get their preferred contact information, professional title as it was when working with them, a brief explanation of the relationship with the reference, how long the candidate knew each reference, and correct spelling of their names.
  2. Bring a printout of these references to the potential employer either when conducting an initial introduction, job fair, or to a scheduled interview.  Ensure candidate’s name and contact information is also on the document in case it gets misplaced by the recruiter.
  3. Avoid placing references on a resume.  This should be a separate document.  There are plenty of templates online for guidance on formatting and structure.


Christine Brugman MAOM, GHRM  |  Resumes Right Away LLC  |  Professional Résumé Writer and Employment Consultant

Military Spouses – It’s Network, Or Not Work

Please check out Christine’s latest publication in Military Spouse Magazine’s March 2012 issue!

(Click on the image for the full PDF version)

Courtesy of Military Spouse Magazine

Courtesy of Military Spouse Magazine

Challenges of the Military Spouse Professional

Most military spouse professionals face unique challenges when working to sustain their professional careers, as the ability to work is altered by the transient nature of the military lifestyle.  I’ve compiled a few questions and answers from various interviews and dialogue with fellow military spouse professionals to assist others who may have similar questions relating to their own career challenges.

“I’m a recent Criminal Justice graduate.  I went through the Military Spouse Preference registration on base, have been job searching in the local surrounding communities, and I am still having a very difficult time finding work!”

Continue to network!  Join clubs, the Chamber may have a Rising Professionals group that’s pretty inexpensive to join, volunteer within your field. It’s all about who you know, so connect with more people and your chances will increase!  Pick up this book on base if it’s there: What Color Is My Parachute 2012 Edition. This book rocks! You’ll learn so much and it’s a fun and easy read. Mr. Bolles sure knows how to tell it how it is.  HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Make an appointment with a Spouse Employment Coordinator at your local military family center.  Request to be placed on their employment distribution list so that you can be notified of job vacancies, career-related classes, and hiring events geared toward military families.

Use your student Career Services department.  Most colleges and universities have free services available to assist graduates with career planning and developing job and internship search strategies.  If your school has an alumni program, I highly recommend joining, as your alumni network is a valuable tool for networking, asking questions, and getting some exposure.

Seek volunteer opportunities.  Keep your resume current by volunteering in a field related to your degree program.  Reflect on what you want to do with that degree.  Remember that professional volunteer work IS considered WORK and should not be discounted when marketing yourself to potential employers – focus on the tangibles you have to offer (inherent abilities and technical competencies) and your professional accomplishments, paid or not.

Join LinkedIn Networking Groups.  Start with your alumni group!  Alumni tend to want to help others from their alma mater.  Then start searching for industries and companies of interest.  Ask questions and answer questions.  This is your chance to demonstrate your subject matter expertise as well as understand what is going on within those industries.  Ensure your LinkedIn profile is clean, creative, and professional.  Avoid listing “Military Spouse” as a professional position!

“What do you think are some of the best traits of military spouse professionals (and military spouses in general)?”

In my experience, not only as a military spouse, but as a hiring manager and a recruiter working within a military community, I have found that MOST military spouse job candidates communicate and follow up very well, are tech savvy, demonstrate proven adaptability and resilience, respect structure and guidelines, and are efficient and effective under pressure/duress.  Military spouses are placed in positions where we are forced to adapt and MAKE things work for the family so the military member can focus on his/her job, providing for his/her country.  We do the same for private industry employers – make their job easier so they can focus on the corporate mission. It eventually comes natural to the military spouse.

Here are some stats I pulled from a 2009 survey: 84% of military spouses have some college education, 77% are career-driven, and 25% have at least a four-year degree.

Milspouses are forced into cultural immersion – corporate, family, deployment, PCS moves, etc.  We ‘train’ to successfully adapt.

“My husband is undergoing a PCS move this fall.  What do you tell an employer when they ask why you are relocating?  I don’t feel comfortable mentioning I’m married and saying I moved for his job.  I work for a leading company in my field and wouldn’t be able to get an equivalent job, so it’s not like I can claim I’m moving to advance my career.  Your thoughts?”

This is always a tough one.  I typically advise the employer that my spouse’s employer moved us.  If they ask what he does, I tell them “communications”, which is true.  As a hiring manager, I used to ask this question frequently as it was an integral part of the interview process.  If the employer continues to focus on the reasons you are relocating instead of the value your experience and skills can bring to the position, then you may want to reconsider your candidacy.  Employers ask this question to gauge risk, especially if they are looking to fill the position with someone for at least five years.  This actually happened to me.  The hiring manager indicated that she wanted to fill the position with someone for at least three years. Well, we all know how the military works and nothing is definite EVEN IF orders indicate a time frame on the assignment, it could be extended or cut short at any time.  Yes, PCS orders came about a year and a half into my acceptance of the position, but I walked away leaving them with brand new solutions, new avenues of business, and a record low employee turnover within the department.  Not too shabby.

Many spouse professionals suggest being straightforward with the employer, HOWEVER, if I had been 100% honest with my hiring manager/recruiter on my military spouse status (without lying, just leaving out specific spouse career details), I would not have been offered the position.  How do I know this?  When my director found out about six months into the position, she was surprised and THEN asked all of her questions… “So how long are you going to be here?  When do you expect to leave?” and so on.  Because I had made such a difference and worked to make her job easier with me coming in, it was not as important as it would have been if I volunteered the information during my interview.

If you think of it, in most cases, a civilian job candidate’s spouse’s career/job should not play a role in the interview process, so why should it for a military spouse?  Unfortunately it does and there’s no REAL way to avoid it unless you happen to identify a military friendly employer or get an internal referral by a fellow military spouse/friend for a position that welcomes the military lifestyle.

Back to your question…. what’s the reason you provide when you are relocating?  It can vary based on your career interests.  If you’re comfortable advising that your husband’s work brought you to the area, then that is appropriate.  If the employer straight up asks if he is military, that can get a bit tricky AND I would probably reconsider candidacy, but in that case I would tell the truth.

Here is an article I’ve kept on file for a while when I worked with a military spouse career nonprofit, from the AirForce Times touching on this exact issue: Mission Family: Employers do want military spouses

You can also reference the following brochure to help you with your discussion in the event that your military status comes to fruition during an interview: Military Spouse Employment Brochure

Happy hunting!

“Has being a Military Spouse helped or hindered your career?”

Most military spouse professionals would agree that for some assignments, the military spouse label was hindering and for others it served as another avenue to find rewarding employment.

When I was living amongst a small military community in Florida where “military friendly” employers were not commonly sought out or advertised, it was discouraged to volunteer military spouse status when seeking “professional” employment.  I was seeking a mid-level management position and a 5-year plan was a significant focal point to the employer, whereas an entry level position focused more so on a 2-3 year plan. Based on this, I knew that it would not be beneficial to bring this up as a talking point during the interview.  I was asked what brought me to Florida, and I advised that my husband’s job required us to relocate.  When asked what he did for a living, I responded that he is in the communications field – he was a COMMUNICATIONS officer, so this was entirely true.  My boss was not too excited to hear that I was a military spouse a few months after I was hired, but I was already integrated into the position and the environment, and was kicking butt in the process (we spouses have the gift to adapt QUICKLY)!

I will say that being a military spouse within the industry that I work in now is an ABSOLUTE PLUS!  Most of my client base consists of military spouses and transitioning veterans/military members.  I am an employment and recruiting consultant and living in a rather large military community like Colorado Springs adds a lot of value to my business and provides many opportunities to work with the local military installations to educate spouses on effective employment practices and tools in a way that they an relate to AS A FELLOW SPOUSE.  This is another niche that won’t be available to me at our next upcoming assignment.  Military-affiliated clientele trust our services over someone they would find in the Yellow Pages just because we are part of the military family and “we” exercise a certain type of empathy and identification with one another as military families.

Location is key, but networking is THE key – if there are military-friendly employers, sometimes the only way to inquire on those folks and their employment opportunities is to network within the military community.

HR Education With No HR Experience. Now What?

“Dear Christine,

I have two classes to go for my BA in HR Management.  I am trying to get into an HR position, but they all want experience?!”

What kind of HR position are you trying to get into? HR positions range quite a bit. If you are speaking of a generalist or management position, then yes. A Human Resources manager is a position that holds a lot of accountability on the organization’s behalf, so in most cases, it is critical for HR management candidates to have close to at least three to five years experience, if not more.

To get your foot in the door, I recommend looking at HR Assistant positions. This position typically lets folks “intern” in HR and learn the ropes of the business in many facets like Benefits and Compensation, Payroll, Workforce Management, Risk Management, Training Development… well, you get the point. Training is also under the HR umbrella. Trainers work closely with HR, especially during the new employee orientation period incorporating career development, workforce management, and performance management – all valuable areas of experience for an HR management position.

Also keep in mind that when applying for an HR position, the HR hiring managers and recruiters typically set the bar higher for HR candidates simply because they expect that you should conduct every aspect of your job search with ‘insider knowledge’ and professionalism. In other words, think about what you would expect from a “seasoned” job candidate YOU were considering. Unfortunately recruiters and hiring managers report that too many HR candidates don’t. Some HR job seekers fail to follow directions, they apply for jobs they are clearly not qualified for, and they act as if the well-researched, available body of job searcher advice does not apply to them. As a job candidate it is imperative for you to “cross your T’s and dot your I’s” when seeking HR employment.

You can also look into companies that promote internal growth. Get your feet wet working the front line, learn the structure and strategic mission of the organization, then apply for an entry level position within HR.  Chances are, when a position becomes available, employees get first dibs on submitting their application and credentials over an external candidate.   Also, if you have any management experience, then you most likely already have qualifying HR skills and competencies under your belt and can market yourself in that respect.

You can also check with local staffing firms who may have clients seeking candidates for entry-level HR positions. See if you have an HR-based staffing firm in your area.

Jobs aren’t “scarce” right now, they are just hidden. It would be in your best interest to join HR professional associations, like SHRM, and especially those within your local community. Right now organizations depend on internal referrals more than not to get quality job candidates. Get out there, network, and let people know who you are and that you’re looking. You’d be surprised!

Feel free to follow and tweet your questions to Christine at Brug’s Career Blog on Twitter!

Don’t Let Your Job Title Define You

No matter what position you hold in the office, the military, or at home, your given job title should not limit your ability to be successful in pursuing your career field of interest.  Think of yourself as an ongoing marketing campaign, targeting the career you’ve always wanted – the dream job.  Focusing solely on your job title to define your skills, experience, and education, can limit your career path and direction. For instance, just because you lack “Manager” or “Senior…” within your given position title doesn’t necessarily mean that you lack the corresponding experience.  This is particularly relevant to our military veterans.

Does the position of interest require management experience?  Are you hesitant to apply for the position because you have not had “Manager” in your job title?  Start with answering these questions:

  1. Have you ever been put in charge of something?
  2. Do you or have you volunteered for an organization where you were in a leadership role?
  3. Have you taken the initiative to create something new, to make something, make business operations more efficient, or save money?
  4. Have you mentored or trained a group or another colleague with outstanding results?
  5. Have you ever led a project, task, or program?

If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you have management experience.

Unfortunately, most career-minded employees bound their thinking, and focus on rigid adherence to roles spelled out in their job description.  The key to changing this behavior is to look holistically at your working experience and assess activities within this experience that point toward your desired profession, while investigating, pursuing, and achieving milestones which balance suitability for desired employment and attractiveness to potential employers.


  • Volunteer for an organization to learn new skill sets and gain experience.
  • Show initiative in your current position by volunteering for a special project.
  • Seek out advancement and promotion opportunities within your organization.
  • Propose a new idea on the job that may improve processes or conditions.
  • Join a professional group and volunteer for a committee leadership position.
  • Are you a subject matter expert?  Propose to assist in training fellow employees.


You will set yourself apart from your peers simply because you’re investing in learning and applying new skill sets and experiences.  Once you master the basics of what you’ve learned, your professional experience becomes more attractive to hiring managers and you’re better equipped to market your professional background with more confidence, simply because you have gained knowledge about other things outside of your job title.

Conduct a Skills Inventory

We must reflect on and inventory what we have to offer:  Transferable skills, experience, knowledge, challenges, business ethic and values.  The purpose behind this necessary reflection process is to discover alternative ways of describing who you are.  You cannot restrict your definition of yourself to your current or previous job title.  The more you reflect and take note of who you really are what you really have to offer, the quicker you will identify the true value you can bring to the table.

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