Informational Interviews: Understanding the Basics

What is an informational interview?

Also referred to as an “informational conversation”, an informational interview is a type of meeting where job seekers attempt to obtain guidance on their career of choice, industry, as well as the corporate culture of a potential future place of employment. Meanwhile, employers have the opportunity to learn more about a specific job seeker, ascertaining their possible value to the organization as well as their potential fit within the corporate culture, while also building upon their own pool of viable future hires.


In an informational interview, job seekers can be either active or passive candidates; meaning they may be true job seekers or employed professionals looking to gather knowledge about their field of choice. In either case, the candidate is gaining valuable leads, network contacts, and expertise.

How do informational interviews differ from typical job interviews?

In a traditional job interview, the conversation is centered upon hiring and a specific job to be filled; whereas an informational interview provides level ground for participants to learn about one another on a more equal basis. However, it’s important to note that even if a direct employment opportunity is not being discussed, professionalism is still top priority.

Coined by best-selling career author, Richard Nelson Bolles, an informational interview can either be initiated by a job seeker or by an employer seeking to construct an assemblage of candidates for possible future positions.

However, when a candidate initiates an informational interview, close attention must be paid to etiquette. Job seekers should remain heedful of the fact that the employer is taking time out of their schedule to meet with them. In this instance – much like a traditional job interview – educating one’s self about the company and industry is crucial. Also, be sure that the meeting does not markedly exceed the 15-minute mark.

How should one locate contacts for an informational interview?

Much like a traditional job search or candidate screening process, connections can be made through job boards, career and social networking sites, placement services, newspaper “want-ads”, professional meet-up and trade associations, company websites, teachers and professors, professional recruiters, and job search engines.

What are some tips for job seekers looking to conduct their own informational interview?

Executive/career coach, speaker, and author, Tad Mayer offers some helpful guidelines for candidates looking to organize an informational interview with a prospective employer or expert in their field.

1.  Set an agenda that will get you the answers you need.

Ask the other party for their “story”, background, and what led them to their current role or position. Follow this question by asking for any pertinent advice that the employer or field expert can offer. For purposes of reference, be sure to provide information about yourself as well. By explaining your “story” to the other individual, you are providing them with a more effective opportunity to offer their assistance. Once they can understand your unique perspective, they will be better able to properly tailor their responses and advice in a more helpful way.

2.  Reach out to the right people.

Assure that the individual with whom you choose to connect will be both helpful and reliable. In other words, search for contacts who not only possess valuable knowledge based on where you are in your career, but also those who are most likely to agree to the meeting. Mayer asserts that the latter criterion is essential, especially when you are starting out. The more informational interviews you are able to complete with willing individuals, the more practice you will have for those deeper in your network.

Informational-Interview-Woman-accessing-Social-Network.jpgThe Takeaway

The reasons for partaking in this often overlooked career resource can be limitless, and the benefits are often multi-faceted. Whether you walk away with a job offer, some future networking prospects, or even a new friendship; informational interviews are a win-win for everyone involved.


Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Helpful Tips For Composing a Difficult Email

While no one ever wants to be the bearer of bad news, there are times when we must compose a difficult or even “harsh” email. Whether it be sharing honest feedback, a differing opinion, or informing a colleague of a mistake; these instances which may not quite warrant a phone call or personal meeting, are still worthy of a properly written message.

male hands working with laptop computer

Often, however, even the most harmless words can be misinterpreted in written form, so naturally those conveying criticism of any kind have the potential to create more unnecessary tension between you and the recipient.

Preventing fallout is the goal when sending a hard email, yet fortunately, Sara McCord, professional advisor, writer, and career contributor, has offered some valuable guidelines for composing those difficult emails.

Line one: Start with a friendly opener.

McCord states, “When you’re writing the opening line (after the salutation that is), it can be helpful to imagine it’s a conversation. If someone walked up to you and dove right into their point, you’d be put off.” Often it’s something as simple and obvious as “Hope you enjoyed your weekend” or “How are you today?” that can get the message off to a good start.

Line two: Thank your recipient.

When appropriate, recognize your reader’s efforts. In short, always acknowledge the positive before the negative. Thanking your recipient for their efforts, time, work or thoughts on the issue at hand, can help to soften the impact of the rest of your message.

Line three: Show that you understand your reader’s perspective.

Of course, you don’t want to waste too much time before getting to the main idea, but pointing out a possible strength within the recipient’s work, standpoint, or input, will help them keep an open mind to the actual point you are trying to make. As an example, McCord suggests, “…you might tell a direct report that you can see how the strategy they implemented would help the team operate better [or] you might tell a colleague they did a great job addressing the client’s main concern”. However, what is important here is to keep your comments honest and sincere, as most people notice when they’re being “softened up” for something negative. Also, be sure to keep the praise related to the issue at hand, and don’t overdo it to the point where your main message becomes muddled in the process.

Main body of email: Provide structured explanation.  

While you may feel that your recipient does not particularly care to read the details of why you are heading in a different direction, in actuality, it shows your reader that you have enough respect for their input and intelligence when you do provide ample explanation. Nevertheless, you do want to avoid over-elaborating on the problem, so try to keep your sentences as clear and concise as possible. McCord suggests the examples, “We decided to go a different direction because we needed a strategy that prioritized cost-effectiveness, due to budget constraints”; or perhaps, “… I’d love to see [these] changes carried through other aspects of the presentation because we’d like them to be consistent”. If you are offering multiple changes, McCord advises the use of bullet points to clearly delineate your ideas. However, the key is to include the reasons for your change in each sentence. In this case, budget constraints and/or consistency throughout a presentation are the desired results.

Concluding line:  Offer your assistance.

McCord advises that, as the writer, you should “[always] end by asking if you could clarify anything or answer any questions”. While it’s commonplace to remind the reader to contact you with any questions, there is an important purpose for including those words. Ending your email simply with your critique provides a very one-sided approach to the subject. Offering your help, not only shows your concern with the reader’s response, but also upholds a collaborative spirit wherein you convey the message that you plan to solve the issue together.

Of course, the sign-off consisting of a simple “thank you”, “best”, or “sincerely”, is all you need for a closing.

Subject Line: Choose words carefully

While the subject line is reliant upon the content of the email, you should still keep the tone non-confrontational and constructive. Some even suggest that for emails of this type, avoiding words like “urgent” is a good idea. Also, be sure not to offer too much information directly from the body of the message in the subject line.

Email Envelope On Mobile Showing One Message Received

Integrating these tips the next time you must compose a difficult or potentially negative email may just make the experience less uncomfortable for both you and your recipient.

Further reading:  The Importance of Skilled Business Writing


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

The Best Ways to Save Time During Your Job Search

Fitting a successfully effective job search into an already busy schedule can be a challenging, if not arduous, task. Luckily, there are a few pointers that can help streamline and reduce extra time spent on details while job hunting.

According to career coach, Alyson Garrido, identifying a few key factors can assist you in targeting your efforts in the right direction, helping you quickly land a quality job.

Using smart watch

Recognize your top strengths.  If you’re able to identify your strongest suits in the workplace, you will be more likely to recognize which opportunities are most congruous to your skills and needs.  Be sure to highlight these strengths, not only on your resume, but as talking points during interviews.  Garrido adds, “Consider making a list of the things you do that give you energy or record the details of your proudest accomplishments to start to see what strengths appear.”

Know what work environment suits you best.  “Company culture” has become a common buzz term, which in this case, holds a considerable amount of clout. Reflect upon your own personality-type: Are you partial to open work areas, a socially active employee staff, or would you find these aspects distracting? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions; however, identifying where you fall within the mix can help you quickly realize if a particular work environment is going to work for you. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the dynamics of the organization before you start the job by researching a company’s website and LinkedIn page, and even asking appropriate questions during your job interview.

Decide which companies to target first.  Garrido suggests creating “a list of companies for whom you’d like to work and set out to get noticed [as this] is part of a proactive job search”.  Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. If there are specific companies in your area that interest you and hold a good reputation, take the first step by contacting the right individuals in these organizations. This will increase the odds of being at the top of their list when a position does become available.

Don’t hesitate to seek help.  Never underestimate the power of your network; in fact, it’s likely that you possess more meaningful contacts than you may think. Start by making a list of people who would be glad to assist you with your job search.  However, Garrido states, “Remember to think beyond coworkers and former colleagues. You are more than your job title, so explore all areas of your life while making this list”. It’s recommended to begin by contacting those individuals to whom you can reach out most easily, and let them know what type of position you are seeking. Keep in mind, that besides actual job opportunities, introductions to other contacts within your industry are valuable as well. This is a simple way to utilize and expand upon your existing network, while directing you closer to your next professional role.

Seek personal balance. Garrido reminds job seekers, “When searching for a job, it is important to present the best version of yourself. That means focusing on things that keep you happy and healthy, not just on search related activities”. Be sure to isolate time for friends, family, brief getaways, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Creating a little space between you and your job search may help you return to it with a fresh, more productive, outlook. Moreover, a bright, positive outlook on life always shows through nicely on interviews.

Identify your “non-negotiables”.  Everyone has certain job-related factors on which they are not willing to bargain. Perhaps it is a specific salary, commute length, or a particular job detail. If this is the case, create a list and stick to it. This will allow you to direct your efforts toward opportunities that fit your criteria, preventing you from wasting time pursuing roles that are a poor fit for your needs.

Rethink your notion of a successful job search.  Remember that job hunting is an activity that surpasses simply sending out resumes, completing applications, and going on interviews. Keep in mind that the connections you’ve made, events you’ve attended, and the confidence you’ve gained doing so, are all part of the plan. Maintaining a positive view of the progress you’ve made will keep you on track toward finding and obtaining your next target role.

Download job

To Conclude

Guidelines such as these can help job seekers stay focused on their goals by reducing the distractions associated with uncertainty and a disordered strategy. We all know that time is of the essence during any job search, so be sure to construct a “clear criteria” of which jobs are the best fit for your personal and professional needs.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200


Communications Review: Are You Sending Effective Business E-mails?

Here to Stay

It’s safe to say that hard-copy interoffice memos are passé; as they’ve long since been supplanted by the ubiquitous e-mail.  The functionality of e-mail allows us to stay in touch with our customers, suppliers, and team members with a significantly lowered cost and increased speed over traditional snail-mail.

business-emails-keyboard_envelope_email-keyE-mail also ameliorates some of the challenges of communicating through international time zones.  For example, your location in New York likely makes it difficult to speak at will to your partners in Japan or Australia, in real time.  Yet, through e-mail, business associates from remote locations can communicate with greater ease, as well as speed.

On a social/personal level, most have forgone the traditional e-mail in favor of texting and other instant messaging platforms, yet in the business world, there remains a certain sense security and formality to an e-mail message.  The ability to encrypt messages, attach confidential documents, schedule messages for later dates, track message arrivals, receive automatic receipt notices when your message has been opened, and correspond with several parties at once, makes e-mail a standard choice for almost all types of business communications.

Best of all, e-mails leave an undeniable electronic “paper-trail”, complete with time and date.  If the need ever arises, you can follow all of your correspondence paths, and even review earlier messages without first needing to file them somewhere physical in order to search and recover them, or any other sort of complex action.

It’s unmistakable that the advantages of e-mail in the business world are immense.  For better or worse, e-mail is a vital part of our culture’s communication method, especial in the business sector. As it won’t be going away anytime soon, be sure you are using it to its full and most effective advantage.

Here, we discuss some basic, yet perhaps forgotten or overlooked, imperatives which we should all be upholding when sending business e-mails.

Good vs. Bad

Succinct Communication

William Shakespeare once wrote “Brevity is the soul of wit”, yet seemingly, many neglect this concept.  Self-importance is hardly a reason to pollute your communications with effects that only you want to hear.

One Question Rule

Ask one question (or two, closely related questions) per e-mail.  Is your e-mail program set up with only an INBOX, SENT and TRASH folder?  Chances are, you have folders for people, various sub-topics, accounts, projects, and so on.

The individual who sends out an e-mail requesting a response regarding the latest financial report, the date of your next golf outing, when you’ll be sending over your new hire assessment, as well as the results of the most recent customer survey, may have a difficult time getting a timely (or complete) response from his or her recipient(s).

Even today, many  individuals feel they are doing their associates a favor by condensing a myriad of issues into one e-mail message, when, in fact, they are actually obscuring the significance of the most important matters (i.e., financial report) while reducing the chances of a timely response on any of the other less pressing questions (i.e., golf outing).  Categorizing questions – even if it means sending an extra e-mail or two – will allow recipients to easily organize topics, better dedicate their responses, and reply in a more timely and thorough manner.


While you should never use the subject-line to type out the bulk of your e-mail’s text, this space should definitely not be ignored or disregarded.  If you must send out a general reminder notice to your group, you can save everyone time by including the brief details in the Subject-line.  E-mail-Verload Solutions offers this helpful list of frequently-used e-mail acronyms to simplify and improve the effectiveness of your subject-line.

The Mechanics of E-mail Construction

Before you begin, you should be able to answer these two questions:

  1. Why am I writing?
  2. What do I expect to gain from this e-mail?

If you cannot definitively answer these questions, don’t send an e-mail.  A nebulous intent before you begin writing makes it almost certain that your message will not be clear.

Remember our friend Shakespeare above, and build your e-mail so that it is brief, functional, and respectful of your recipient’s time.  A template can also be quite helpful.  This particular blog at offers some extremely useful e-mail templates based on the subject and type of message you need to send.

However, regardless of your e-mail’s topic or intent, there are some basic guidelines which are generally applicable across the board.

  1. Use the name of your recipient(s) in the salutation.
  2. Include a pleasantry to set a congenial mood. (For example:  Extend your congratulations on a recent promotion, or express gratitude for an effort on your behalf.)
  3. State your request or issue as clearly and concisely as possible.
  4. Follow your request with a specific action to take, and then welcome the recipient(s) to contact you for any necessary clarification.
  5. Conclude your message on a hopeful/positive note, and don’t forget to say “thank you”.
  6. Include your closing/signature. (Tip: Be sure your closing/signature is concise and includes your name, title, company name, basic contact information. Use your “settings” function to set up your signature to appear in all newly composed messages.)
  7. Proofread thoroughly before clicking “send”.

When Not to E-mail

business-emails-communication-device-graphicE-mail can have a downside, too.  Sometimes communications require a great deal of detail, which can force you to throw all the conventional rules of a good e-mail out the window, so to speak.

However, when you feel that a particular e-mail’s back-and-forth correspondence is becoming unmanageable, do not be afraid to pick up the telephone, or even better, speak in person, if possible.  Ten or twenty interruptions to your day can be more time consuming than a brief phone call or face-to-face meeting.  You might be able to solve a problem in five or ten minutes on the phone that could have dragged out for a couple of days or more in e-mail.

While e-mail can be an indispensable tool, there will always be times when there is truly no substitute for conversational speaking.  In fact, as this technological age has advanced to a point where many of us are communicating with coworkers and associates almost solely via means of electronic messaging, we have come to realize that a misunderstanding can easily arise for the simple reason that the written word often does not convey the same emotion or intent as does the spoken word; even if the objective is identical.  When texting or e-mailing someone on a personal level, you may include a corresponding emoticon to soften the lines of your message, however, in business, where emoticons are less often used for fear of seeming unprofessional, words can often be misinterpreted.  This article at further describes why certain sentiments can often be misread via e-mails and texts.

The Takeaway

E-mail is a fantastic contrivance, but it is not the ultimate solution to every communication problem.  The average professional can typically encounter up to 100 e-mails per day, and there are times when a brief conversation could eliminate 20 percent of your inbox. Therefore, choose your communication methods wisely, and not solely out of habit.

Conversely, the ability to make your e-mail messages work for you through proper composition, organization, and etiquette, can simplify as well as maximize your interactions with coworkers and associates, while conveniently documenting your exchanges for future reference.  When used effectively, the benefits of e-mail communication truly are invaluable.

Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Exploring Talent Communities and Their Role in Recruitment

While Talent Communities have a great deal to offer the world of recruitment and professional networking, they are neither employment agencies nor job boards.  They are, rather, segmented online groups which encourage the convergence of individuals with similar goals and talent-communities-businessman-holding-globe-of-professionalsinterests to interact and share information for the benefit of all.  Through collaboration of members, Talent Communities can offer a wide range of employment information and resources on an unofficial level.

Although they are beneficial to recruiting, it is not necessarily their sole purpose.  Members often brainstorm problems of various descriptions, very much akin to the phenomenon that prevailed from the 1980s through the early 1990s when the Internet was virtually unknown to the common person.

Group History

Before the World Wide Web was introduced, computers of all makes and varieties communicated through common telephone lines with modems via Bulletin Board Services (BBS).

From approximately 1978 to 1996, computer enthusiasts helped others solve their technical problems in many separate areas called SIGs (Special Interest Groups) covering employment, philosophy, science, creative writing, social phenomenal, or anything else you could imagine.  Essentially, Bulletin Board Services embodied the concept of the World Wide Web before it even existed as a mainstream medium.

Full Circle

Fast forward to the internet-driven 21st century, and we find we have parallel communities that are essentially SIGs.  People with similar interests share information and support each other, while reaping the benefit of available and easily-accessible expertise.

Recruitment Contribution

Although Talent Communities do offer a wide spectrum of service-related advantages, it is not wrong to assume that they are essentially career oriented.  They present a great opportunity to network within your own niche; you can enhance your contacts with connections very specifically tied to your career, rather than more generically as you would on most social media platforms.

Another feature that Talent Communities allow for is social recruiting, where professional recruiters or hiring managers seek top job candidates who are actively seeking employment.  Whether these recruiters are running the communities or not, candidates can advertise their availability simply through their participation.

Why Create a Talent Community?

In terms of time and effort, large companies (greater than 200 employees) spend nearly $5000 for each new hire.  If your company is in the habit of hiring 400 employees per year, that equates to two million dollars annually spent on recruiting.

On average, it can take six weeks to hire a new employee (eight weeks in the medical profession).  Having a critical position unfilled for a month and a half isn’t simply inconvenient; that empty desk may be costing an employer approximately $2000 per day in lost revenue.  Compared to the $5,000 cost of hiring, the loss of $84,000 in revenue is quite significant.  Also, there is often more than one vacancy, so it starts to add up very quickly.

By turning your “Careers” section into an inviting Talent Community you can have an ever-present pool of candidates.  Most of them will be passive candidates (those who are not actively seeking a job, but are curious about your company).  A number of active candidates will be present; some of your own employees must participate to answer questions, supply information, provide articles to show that the Talent Community is active; and in this modern age, when the upcoming crop of replacements for the retiring Baby Boomers is going to be 25 million short, you should invite your retirees and former employees.  Not only do they have the expertise to drive the Talent Community forward but they might be persuaded to return to work and offer their expertise while the employment supply-and-demand formula finds its balance again.

Benefits to Job Seekers

talent-communities-woman-working-at-laptopAn interested visitor can get a very specific idea about a particular employer when they explore that company’s Talent Community.  Understanding the corporate culture makes it much easier to decide if the job is a good fit for them.  Information provided by current and former employees will let them know if the available opportunities match their goals.

As they get to know the company, the company gets to know them.  This familiarity makes it much easier to apply for and obtain a job.

Furthermore, establishing an online rapport or relationship with a current employee opens the possibility of getting a personal referral.  Companies have reported that they grant more weight to a personal referral than they do to any other form of information about a potential hire.

The Takeaway

For employers, it really doesn’t get much better than having your own Talent Community full of potential hires.  It’s going to reduce your hiring costs, significantly speed up the whole hiring process, and save quite a bit of money in terms of lost revenue.

For job seekers, accessing a Talent Community can provide you with clear window into a company of interest, as well as the opportunity to communicate with other employees at the same organization.

Therefore, Talent Communities are a truly a win-win option for all participants.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Reentering the Workforce After a Long Absence

The reasons why an individual may leave the workforce indefinitely are multi-faceted.  The most common include maternity/paternity, palliative care for a sick or elderly relative, raising children, additional education, starting a business, stress-related leave, or simply taking time for creative endeavors.

reentering-the-workforce-long-corridorA parting can take place in an official capacity, such as a sabbatical, while some workers may choose an early retirement.  Yet, while the reasons for prematurely discontinuing your employment may vary, the rationales which motivate one to return to the workforce also range in basis.

 Voluntary Return

In some cases, it’s simply a matter of daily monotony that attracts the willfully unemployed back into the workforce again.  Children reach adulthood, personal goals were reached, retirement was unfulfilling, or various circumstances may have left you seeking additional purpose in your life.

Obligatory Return

In a situation where there is a compulsory decision to return to work for financial reasons, for instance, your options may be more limited; however a great deal of the same logic applies.  It’s possible that when you planned your sabbatical or early retirement, you didn’t properly anticipate certain life circumstances that may have caused you personal economic strain.  However, don’t despair because this is an obvious and common concern, which can also be met with an additional sense of fulfillment if approached in the correct capacity.

Consider the Climate

Businesses are losing an immense amount of talent in a short span of time due to the large group of baby-boomers who have reached retirement age, and employers are scrambling to find their replacements.  In most cases an early-retiree is welcomed back with open arms, and possibly, a certain sense of relief.  These returned employees have expertise; they already know the ropes, and can work autonomously.  If these experienced employees choose to spend a few extra years training the newer recruits for future leadership roles, then that is also a tremendous bonus for any company.

Therefore, whatever your line of work or reason for leaving, don’t necessarily look upon your absence as a hindrance.  For every company looking to hire the twenty-something college graduate with no actual hands-on experience, there are countless employers who appreciate maturity and a longer range of experience, despite some work history gaps; so it’s important to maintain your confidence, and focus on these types of opportunities.

First Presentation

Chances are, if you have been out of the workforce for a substantial length of time you may not even have an electronic résumé.  If this is the case, focus on converting your hard copy paper resume into a format which modern employers can handle.  Remember that the long gaps in your work history can be addressed during an interview, yet any volunteer experience you may have acquired during your absence should certainly be included; as good employers appreciate a well-rounded job candidate.

If you furthered your education and earned an MBA or any other degree or certification which would be valuable in your chosen field, no further explanation is necessary.  An employer will be happy to speak to somebody who’s interested in expanding upon their education.

Spotlight your accomplishments, your abilities, and how they are relevant to the job you’re seeking.  If your extended absence was due to strictly personal reasons, adding “further details available on request” is more than sufficient, and no added concentration is necessary.  If your initial reason for leaving the workforce was to raise children or care for a family member, it’s important to remember that you are not the first person to make this decision and you certainly won’t be the last.  A modern and sensible employer is aware of this and should be respectful of this fact.

Updated Skills

If your absence only spanned a few years, your job skills are most likely still valid, however, you may find that you need to brush up on certain proficiencies.  Nowadays, five years can seem more like ten due to the speed at which workplaces are evolving, due mostly to technological advancements and changes in communication techniques. Try looking into training webinars, online tutorials, and adult education programs in your area.

If you have been unemployed for close to ten years or longer, then it is well worth your time to investigate many of the free online schools (including some fine ivy-league colleges that would surprise you) to get a new certification, or even a degree.

If you have been out of the workforce for a considerable amount of time, but walk in to an interview with a freshly minted diploma or certificate, you are demonstrating that you are self-directed, well-versed in your field, and ready to work.


What is extremely important for candidates who have been out of the job-seeking world for ten years or longer to remember is that the methods for seeking employment have changed drastically.  While individuals were utilizing online job searching techniques ten years ago, there is a possibility you have never personally experienced these changes, especially if you spent many years working for the same employer before your departure.

There is currently an expansive array of employment websites to register with as well as mobile apps to get you started on your search.  Luckily, they are not difficult to find, and a little extra time searching the internet should direct you toward the right path.

Moreover, don’t forget to set up a LinkedIn profile, since employers in recent years have been relying heavily on LinkedIn as a viable recruitment source.  This will also give you the opportunity to network toward the job you want.  In addition to listing your skills and experience, be sure to display on your profile that you are seeking employment.

Starting Out

In all cases, seeking out a reputable employment agency or career counselor can also help you reenter the work force through proper coaching and correct representation of your talents.  Inform them of your skills, and try out some of their assessments.  Another important part of their job is that they can reveal overlapping areas of interest that can lead to a new career you haven’t even reentering-the-workforce-multi-faceted-candidate-collageconsidered.

Consider accepting a part-time or temporary position through an employment agency to help you acclimate yourself back into the working world, and don’t be afraid to agree to a temporary position that is outside of your original line of work. Temp assignments can be short-term and consecutive, and may even offer you the opportunity to discover a new endeavor you never realized you had a talent for.

If this is the case, the agency can help you focus on acquiring full-time employment in the particular area you are interested in.  You can build credibility with a particular employer, while seeking out the full-time position you want.  You can also attain a reputation as a reliable worker for the employment agency, and they, in turn, will find you better quality opportunities once you have proven yourself as a valuable, dependable worker.

Additionally, a career counselor or recruiter can help you brush up on your interview skills; which will be invaluable when seeking employment after a long break.  Job interviews can be nerve-wracking for the job-seekers who have never left the market, let alone for someone returning from a long absence of non-employment.  This is also something you can do at home by reviewing and answering practice questions, and even video-taping your replies to assist you in smoothing out your verbal (and non-verbal) communication.

In the Meantime

While we may be living in a digital world, especially in terms of job-hunting and employment in general, there is still much to be achieved through the fading art of making in-person connections.  Print up some business cards and keep them handy.  On the occasion you encounter someone with a connection to your field of interest, whether at a dinner party or walking through a shopping mall, don’t hesitate to hand out your card.

The Takeaway

Regardless of the reason you left the workforce to begin with, or your reason for returning, the world is full of opportunities.  Approaching this new stage in your life with a smile and an upbeat attitude will get you there faster. Positivity is a very attractive attitude to employers — and people in general — and quite possibly, one of those people may just lead you to your perfect job after all these years.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Can You Really be an Expert at Your Job?

becoming-expert-at-your-job-businessman-lightbulb-headCommonly, people will declare themselves an “expert” in a particular subject that they are generally proficient in, but does that truly mean they know everything there is to know on the topic, or at least more than the average person in the same domain? Having expertise doesn’t necessarily qualify you as an expert.

Naturally, the same holds true for your job.  What differentiates you from the rest of your team or department?  Of course, you are all good workers in your individual ways, but bear in mind that it takes time and effort to be considered a true expert at what you do.

Here are some tips to set you on the path toward professional expert status:

Stay current.

Business trends change with the weather, but that is still no excuse to fall behind on the new developments in your field or industry.  True experts are open to discovery and accept the potential twists and turns that all fields experience at one time or another.  Reading books, blogs and remaining in touch with your professional network is an effective way to stay on top of new growth changes in your industry.  If there is a new skill to be learned, you won’t be aware unless you are in the loop.

Concentrate your efforts.

Focusing your energy on a smaller segment of your field and specializing in a particular skill or two can give you leverage among your competitors.  By adding specialized skills to your professional repertoire, you are increasing your marketability with employers and customers.

Keep practicing.

The more time and energy you devote to a cause, the more success you will find.  This applies to mostly every area of life, especially your career.  By spending every hour of your workweek actively absorbing information, and a good portion of your downtime reviewing and practicing your skill, you will definitely increase your momentum toward expert status.

Network and mentor.

Sharing information is a perfect way to remember it.  Networking allows us to become a vessel of expertise.  The larger our network is, the greater our opportunity to acquire new information, as well as reveal what we have learned.  As mentors, we are given the perfect chance to pass along our expertise.  To become a true expert, one must be able to communicate what he or she has learned.

Try to get published.

Providing you have worked to attain at least near-expert status within your profession, writing blogs and articles on what you have learned is another valuable way of not only gaining respect becoming-expert-at-your-job-book-and-glasseswithin your industry, but also connecting with others who may have even more to contribute on the subject.  It’s best to think of the journey toward true expert-status as a circular path of information.

If you can manage to do this, you will have content to back up your authority status in your field. Don’t simply write a few articles here and there, but instead commit to regular content creation for a variety of outlets, as it helps build up your personal brand faster.

You are never finished.

The notion that you have learned all there is about your job or vocation is most likely false.  Remaining open to new information and ideas is essential.  Listen to elders in your field, take seminars, classes, and read everything you can.  This is one of the simplest ways to build your arsenal of professional tools.

So, in actuality, the answer is yes, you can most certainly be an expert at your job.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.






How a Consulting Career Can Sharpen Your Professional Skills

Are you a professional seeking to gain exposure in the industries and companies within your field, while building your network and client relationships?  Do you desire a reviving change from the predictability and familiarity of a nine-to-five job?  Consulting might just be a logical choice for the next step in your professional journey.

consulting-blue-office-signAccording to, one of the web’s top freelancing marketing services, more businesses are choosing to spend significant amounts of money on consulting services for IT projects, for example.  This number saw a year-over-year 22 percent increase to date, with a noted preference for independent consultants over traditional agencies.

Consulting requires experience and knowledge in your field, as well as quick thinking.  If you are not fond of meetings and constantly being on the move from one client to the next, then life as an independent consultant may not be for you.  However, many agree that the advantages outweigh any perceived negatives, and a large part of this is freedom and flexibility.

If you are considering spending some time as an individual consultant, here are a few ways this particular career choice may benefit your professional skill set and development as a whole:


Consulting can help you hone in on your communication skills in a big way.  Since you need to consistently provide your clients with results, you will become comfortable with relaying information in the form of e-mails, reports, meetings, phone calls, and any other various manners of communication.  This will also teach or remind you of the importance of staying connected with clients.  If you don’t communicate, your client will assume you are not working effectively, and that can cost you your job.

Experience on the C-level: 

You may not have yet reached CEO status yourself, but interacting with higher-level executives will only benefit you in your career down the road.  Learning to sell your solutions and yourself as a trusted consultant is an extremely valuable experience in the corporate world.

Solving Problems:

As a consultant, your job is to identify and fix problems.  Since thinking outside the box is a must, your creativity and trouble-shooting skills will undoubtedly be sharpened.  Therefore, you will develop a sense of adaptability which will assist you in any type of work environment.

Meeting Deadlines:

Essentially, when you work for yourself, you have yourself to answer to.  A missed deadline usually means a lost client as well as a less than superb reputation to follow, so it is within your own best interest to complete the goals required of you by the designated target date.  While you don’t have to worry about being called into the boss’ office to explain why you missed a deadline, you will consulting-businessman-on-cell-phonestill have to face the consequences.  Consultants learn on their own to juggle tasks and manage their time.

Financial Management:

As an independent consultant, you are in charge of how and when you get paid.  You will need to consider ways of stretching your available funds for the duration of a project, and assume strategies to become more efficient with your budget.  A nine-to-five job may offer steadier paychecks, but as a consultant, you have command of your earnings and the ability to sharpen your money-management skills.  This can assist you not only with your own finances, but in your future professional career.


Consulting allows professionals to learn invaluable skills which they may not obtain in a traditional job setting.  Remember, that while some people choose consulting as their main career, others spend a designated or limited time enjoying the freedom and nonconformity that comes with being a consultant.  Any time spent gaining insight, networking, and learning important skills pertaining to your line of work is time well spent.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200



Phone Etiquette Reminders for the Modern Job-Seeker

In our current world where texts, e-mails, instant messages, and social medial communication have overshadowed, to the point of virtually replacing, voice interaction, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of basic telephone etiquette.  Phone Etiquette - image of 2 iphone screensWhen it comes to job searching, however, this protocol couldn’t be more crucial.

While the use of Smartphones has altered our phone practices from what they were even 10-15 years ago, there are still certain fundamentals which consistently hold true.


Be prepared.

The first imperative piece of advice is to always list your cell number as your main contact for potential employers and hiring managers, on your resume or online job application.  Naturally, listing your current work number is out of the question for obvious reasons, even if you have a direct line to your personal desk or office.  Besides being unprofessional, you have no guarantee you are speaking on a secure line, or you can’t be heard by others in the office.  Although many people do opt to include their home number, you are risking having others answer the call or even missing the call you’ve been waiting for altogether.

If you are in the process of job searching, this is definitely the time to make sure your cell phone is fully charged and within reach (barring use while driving, of course).  It may be best to refrain from answering during times when there is a great deal of background noise which could be distracting to you, as well as a prospective employer.  Just be sure to promptly return the call at your earliest convenience.

Additionally, you want to be sure that your outgoing voice mail message gives a responsible impression, should a hiring manager hear it when calling you.  It’s always best to assure that your message resonates as simple and courteous with your name clearly stated.  Pre-recorded novelty messages can give employers an impression of unprofessionalism.


Protocol in place.

Once the preliminaries are set, it’s time to make sure that your first interaction with a prospective employer goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Have a memorized or pre-written message ready if you must leave a voice mail for a hiring manager.  It’s best not to “ad lib” on your first voice message recording.  When leaving your message, be sure to repeat your name and number twice, at both the beginning and end of your message, and speak clearly so they can write down your information without the message needing to be replayed.


  1. If speaking directly to the prospective employer, be sure to sound professional and ready for the conversation. The best way to initiate the dialog is to say, “Hi, this is (your name) calling about the (position) advertised in/on Phone Etiquette - woman speaking on cell phone(publication or website). Would this be an OK time to speak?”


  1. Once you have begun a conversation with the hiring manager, be sure to utilize that time to schedule an interview/meeting. Only speak in further detail if they wish to, as some employers use this time to screen applicants for interviews.


  1. Providing all has gone well, and you’ve landed the interview, be sure to maintain your level of professionalism by not using your cell phone while meeting with your potential employer. Many agree it’s best to refrain from the moment you enter the building.  In fact, turning it off and leaving it in your pocket or handbag, or even locking it in your car is a good way to avoid temptation.


  1. While a brief follow-up call a few weeks following your interview is not unacceptable, many candidates opt to utilize e-mail for this purpose in the form of a “thank you” to their interviewer. You certainly do not want to pester your prospective employer with countless phone calls, reiterating your skills.  It’s possible they may not have an availability that suits your abilities at this moment, but that doesn’t mean they won’t at a later date.  If you have followed the directions of the job posting and applied for a position that matches your skills, they will call you if they believe your qualifications are a match for the job.  Endless phone calls will not get you in the door quicker; if anything, it will hurt your chances.


Following these basic phone etiquette guidelines while job seeking, will surely boost your status among fellow candidates.  The contemporary job hunter who has not lost sight of the simple courtesies of the past will often find the most success in the future.


By Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.



Are You Limiting Your Job Search?

Just two years ago when we looked at the job market, we clung to our jobs, and hoped that things would get better; and unsurprisingly, they did.

Job Search - JOB WORD_DoorwayWhat truly is surprising is that many of us continued to behave as if nothing has changed.  If we are “brave enough” to seek a new position, it is generally a trepidatious little inquiry about doing precisely the same thing somewhere else.  Understanding where that came from explains why some of us are very cautious about making changes.

Career Advancement

Of course there some companies that are not known for their employee-friendly policies as they cut benefits, decrease wages, and eliminate staff without regard.  Consequently there is always some lingering animosity that may occur.

On the flip side of the coin however, a large percentage of companies have behaved in a decent manner.  They did what they could to preserve jobs while maintaining the viability of their business.

If you are currently unemployed and looking for something, it is not suggested to begin “job-hopping”; the main point here is about expanding your horizons.

Change of Perspective

Are you too focused on a particular title or position, making your online searches too specific?  The world has evolved beyond that.  While some might think it is just silly, office culture has now adopted “progressive” naming conventions that they feel describe the positions more thoroughly.  You will now encounter words such as evangelist, ambassador, and even ninja.  Meanwhile, the old descriptors are falling by the wayside.

If you’re looking for Sales Rep you are going to completely overlook Brand Ambassador; if you’re looking for Recruiting Specialist, you won’t find Personnel Ninja; and as a common Public Relations Director, you’ll never spot Corporate Evangelist.

Put Down the Binoculars

Binoculars give you a detailed view of a single small object; your eyes give you a more general view of everything that surrounds you.  There’s a reason that they put blinders on horses, and not people.  You can do more than carry a single rider, or tow a wagon.

If you are currently a manager, and you are seeking another management job, is that the right path for you?  Management has intrinsic status, of course, but if it isn’t making you happy, will changing to another company make any difference to your job satisfaction?

Many skills are completely transferable.  You might find job satisfaction in Business Development, Project Management, Product Development, Business Analysis, or even as a Freelance Consultant in any one of these fields.

Avoid Comfort

Very few of us enjoy absolute predictability.  If nothing new ever happened in our lives, it would become a mind-numbing horror; most of us would go mad.

Stepping a little outside of our comfort zone is healthy.  I’m not suggesting that an accountant should become an air traffic controller, but there are small steps you can take.  A receptionist can become an executive assistant; a line foreperson can join the R&D team; a salesperson can become a team leader; a manager can become a CEO.  Everything can lead to something else, if you’re not comfortable.

Utilize the Hidden Job Market

Endlessly searching Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, Workopolis, and all the other assorted names can be like searching for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”.  It’s been known to happen, but there are a thousand disappointments for every success.Job Search - Online

The majority of jobs still remain unadvertised because the managers and HR staff have smartened up enough to realize that it’s better to get a reference from a current employee.  It saves the hassle of advertising, sifting through innumerable résumés, possibly interviewing dozens of candidates, and in the end being obliged to hire a complete stranger, hoping for the best.

Who, not What!

You know that maiden aunt on your father’s side that you never talk to?  For the last 20 years she has been the head of the accounting department of the largest competitor to your employer.  Yet here you sit, blissfully ignorant of this wonderful resource.

You’d be amazed at how short a chain of connections needs to be made to put you in touch with just about anyone.  Everyone you know has connections to other people, and any one of them can be a steppingstone to your ideal career.

The Takeaway

The World Wide Web is inarguably terrific—just don’t confine yourself to searching employment websites alone.  Well-established or neophyte, you have friends, relatives, community leaders, public services, job fairs, actual tangible physical job boards, and innumerable other resources.

LinkedIn is one of your best employment resources, allowing you to network, interact with the community, and even develop a reputation for useful community participation.  Explore it; find the job listings; create a custom notification that points out LinkedIn listings that match your interests and you’ll receive alerts when something appropriate becomes available.

You can do this.  A perspective change, and a little discomfort, can do wonders for making you see the range of possibilities that are actually there.  The employment market has recovered so get moving, and get to work!

By Fred Coon, CEO


Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.