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How To Find The Job You Want: Laurie Berenson of Sterling Career Concepts

Expert Interview Series

Laurie Berenson

Founder, Sterling Career Concepts LLC

Laurie Berenson is the founder of Sterling Career Concepts, LLC, where she works one-on-one with senior professionals and rising executives to turn their job search stress into job search success.

What prompted you to start Sterling Career Concepts? What did you feel that other resume writing and career strategy services were overlooking, that you sought to correct with Sterling Career Concepts?

I established Sterling Career Concepts after having worked with an executive search firm for several years and realizing that even highly qualified passive jobseekers could benefit from guidance with their career documents. When you’re gainfully employed, you’re not thinking about your resume. For many professionals, 4 or 5 years (and often times more) can pass before they need to think about their resume. It’s smart to partner with a career professional who stays abreast of job search trends. It saves you time and costly mistakes and enables you to hit the ground running.  

What are some of the most important aspects of job hunting and career building for recent college grads and people new to their career, and what makes them so important? 

Everyone needs to able to effectively sell themselves on paper to an employer – and this is something that many of the people who come to me find very challenging to do. Most of us don’t go around tooting our own horn, but if there’s one place where it’s not just acceptable but essential that you brag, it’s your resume. A resume is not the place to be humble or modest. Be truthful, but do not hold back, because your competition isn’t. 

Knowing or learning how to sell yourself impacts people differently depending on where they are along their career path. 

A young college grad may not know which of their limited experience is the most appealing to a potential employer, someone looking to pivot along their career path or return to the workforce often needs help identifying and marketing their transferrable skills.

One of the services you offer your clients is streamlining their job search efforts. What are some methods that you could recommend for a streamlined job search, and why is that important in today's economy?

Every week that you’re unemployed is thousands of lost dollars in salary, or if you’re looking to switch positions, the faster you can secure a new position (with the assumption that you’re stepping up in salary), the faster you’re earning a higher salary. Not understanding how to effectively conduct a job search can add weeks or months onto your job search. 

It’s easy to feel productive by applying to online job postings, but this is one of the least effective job search methods available to you. Networking requires a lot more time and effort, but reaps greater rewards, so does marketing yourself to a target list of hiring managers based on your search parameters.

You've also talked about the importance of working with a mentor or a career expert. What are some of the main advantages in finding someone with deep, insightful knowledge of the industry that someone's building their career in?

I see two major advantages of working with a careers expert. 

First, having an accountability partner is key. Conducting a job search ranks as one of the most stressful life situations. There’s no reason to tackle it without assistance. Often times our spouse or significant other is too close to the situation to be helpful – or, on the flipside, he or she is eager to help but without relevant experience. It can be beneficial to have an impartial third party with expert knowledge of the job search process.

Second, perspective is critical. Younger professionals can get caught up in thinking they must land an offer for a certain type of position, but it’s much more realistic to take a long-term view of your career and break it down into a series of stepping stones. 

Younger professionals can get caught up in thinking they must land an offer for a certain type of position, but it’s much more realistic to take a long-term view of your career and break it down into a series of stepping stones. 

The first one or two positions you accept out of college give you experience and introduce you to people and organizations. They are most likely not your dream job, but if they educate you and give you exposure to people, concepts, and companies within your industry, they are worthwhile. You are paying your dues early on. This is not the time to get frustrated with your title or responsibilities. 

You help your clients stand out from other job seekers with compelling, branded resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profile. Can you give an example of what branded resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles might look like? What are some of the main advantages of having a cohesive brand identity, for someone looking to find the job they want?

A well-branded resume kick off with a headline, summary paragraph, and list of areas of expertise. This tells the reader who you are professionally and the strengths and expertise that you offer. This defines who you are to the reader – and is in sharp contrast to the outdated resume style that starts with an objective statement and then go right into your professional experience. 

A well-branded resume kick off with a headline, summary paragraph, and list of areas of expertise. This tells the reader who you are professionally and the strengths and expertise that you offer.

The executive summary on a resume today answers the reader’s question, “what can do you for me?” or “why should we call you in for an interview?” while outdated objective statements focused on what the candidate was seeking. 

When you take a step back and think about the situation from the hiring company’s perspective, they’re looking at your resume because they have a need to fill. They don’t care that you’re “looking for a progressive company that will offer you growth potential.” They’re hoping you can solve their problem (their open position). They want to know that you’re a Senior Financial Planning & Analysis Professional with strong experience gaining cost efficiencies in manufacturing and plant operations. 

Then carry branding statement this through on your cover letter and LinkedIn file for a unified presentation. You appear more focused and organized in your job search and the value you offer is more immediately apparent. 

You should assume people will look at both your resume and LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn should therefore coordinate with the resume without repeating it verbatim. This is for two reasons. First of all, dumping two pages of resume content into LinkedIn will overload the format, but it’s also a great opportunity to share new or additional information with people.

You also help your clients find the best career by tapping into hidden job markets. Where are some places a job seeker can look to find hidden job markets?

Having a strong professional network and being in touch with them consistently is one of the best ways to tap into the hidden job market. Another way is to conduct informational interviews with people in your target field so that they may think of you when an opportunity arises. Being in touch with alumni from your college or university is another source of job leads. Time after time, I find alums are often very willing to help each other out. 

The idea is be found, to be thought of or be top of mind when an opportunity comes up. The best way to achieve this is by the tried and true method of networking. There is no shortcut here. It’s not done by just clicking a button or two. It’s through developing relationships and a rapport with people in the same field.  

One of the main reasons Sterling Career Concepts exists is to help give your clients a professional, competitive advantage in today's complex world of employment. What are some of the most important traits and skills for a job seeker to cultivate, to find the job they want? And what are some of the main complexities in today's job market that people need to navigate?

Beyond any skills that are specific to a job seeker’s chosen field, the most important traits for job search success are determination, steadfastness, attention to detail, and follow-up. It’s important to stay organized during a job search and follow through on letters, calls, and leads. 

Beyond any skills that are specific to a job seeker’s chosen field, the most important traits for job search success are determination, steadfastness, attention to detail, and follow-up.

Potential opportunities can easily slip between the cracks if you forget to return a call or follow up on a lead shared with you. Maintaining eye contact and being able to start and maintain conversations is also important and can be tricky for those who are more introverted.  

One of the biggest complexities to navigate in today’s job market is keeping our digital presence and use of social media clean. Our professional identity follows us online. Job seekers are wise to keep in mind that whatever they post, tweet, or comment can be shared or showed to someone. 

Social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram should be set at the strictest security settings so that only friends or connections are able to view things, but that should not be considered a license to be irresponsible online. It should only be considered a layer of protection. You should assume that a potential employer is looking at your social media accounts as part of the process, because many of them are. Do not give them a reason to not hire you.

You help clients polish their LinkedIn profiles to stand out from other job seekers. What are some things someone looking to break into a new career can polish their LinkedIn profile to stand out for potential new employers? And how important is LinkedIn to a job search, with so many different networking opportunities out there, these days?

LinkedIn is very important in a job search nowadays. If you’re not on LinkedIn or if your profile is woefully out of date, it can give potential contacts and employers the sense that you’re out of touch or that you don’t care. 

Employers log on to check the profiles of candidates either before an interview or the final few in the running. Executive recruiters log on to identify and contact passive candidates. Professionals log on to network with their connections and connections of connections.

LinkedIn is just one social media network for possible networking. Where are some other places job seekers can look, to affiliate with people in their industry? Why is it a good idea to have as wide of a network as possible?

Professional associations and alumni networks are two other great ways to build your network.

The wider the network, the more effective it can be for you. Even if someone doesn’t initially seem like a good fit for your network, I recommend staying in touch with them as you never know who someone may know or meet. The more people you know, the more opportunities you can tap into, and the faster you’ll be able to secure a new job.  

For people looking to start a new career, what are some ways they can model their career trajectory, as well as their branded resumes and cover letters, off of people already flourishing in their industry?

Looking on LinkedIn at professionals a couple levels above you is a good way to get ideas of how people advance and move around. Conducting informational interviews with peer-level and senior professionals senior to you in your target industry is another good idea. If you’re lucky to find someone in your field willing to serve as a mentor, he/she can be a sounding board and great source of information as well.  

Want to learn more ways to make your job hunt efficient? Give Vocate a try!

Zack Andresen

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