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Community-Focused Career Discussions: Nissar Ahamed of CareerMetis.com

Expert Interview Series

Nissar Ahamed

Founder/Managing Editor, CareerMetis.com

Nissar Ahamed is the Founder & Managing Editor of Award-winning career blog CareerMetis.com

CareerMetis has a unique, community-focused approach to career discussion. What are some benefits of community-focused career discussions? Can you give an example or two of what that might look like?

Over the past year I have been able to build a community/network of guest authors who have share their career and job search advice through my blog CareerMetis.com. Till date 300+ authors and experts have shared their wisdom through the blog. 

The advantage of having a strong community of authors is that each bring their own flavor. For the same challenge that job seekers face such as "writing a good resume" – you will find a wealth of information that has been shared on the blog.

The reason I like to see multiple submissions on the same topic is that they all provide different perspectives. So, when a job seeker searches for a specific question – they get varying degrees of solutions, and they are free to choose the advice that works for them.

I also look at this as an opportunity to provide other bloggers/wannabe writers an opportunity to promote their writing skills. It is providing them an opportunity to build their portfolio. And they get exposure from an audience with whom they have never interacted before.

Your goal, with CareerMetis, is to become a wise career counsellor for your readers. What were some of your original motivations for wanting to become a career counselor? How have those goals changed or grown, over time?

I started the site with the hopes that one day a job seeker can find all the information they need … instead of googling 10 sites

The goal hasn't changed – in fact, it is slowly materializing. However, the path has changed.

Initially, I just started out writing my own story, ideas and perspectives . Then I realized that there are tons of other authors who could share their advice. So, I have switched gears and taken on the role of editor and manager of the blog rather than the prime writer. 

When I started, I spent 100% of the time writing content. Today I spend most of the time editing, publishing and managing other's content. 

You've talked about having numerous mentors, teachers, and career counsellors over time, that have helped shape your career. Who were a few of your most memorable mentors, and what have been some of the ways they've impacted your career?

I have had mentors or teachers whom I have met throughout my career. These have been my manager, leaders of the companies that I have worked for, and also colleagues whom I have looked up to.

I have also learnt from mentors that I have never met, but from their words through the books they have written. Some of my favourite authors are Napoleon Hill, Robert Greene, Gene Landrum, Tony Robbins, Grant Cardone etc. 

One of the best lessons came from one of my managers.  He taught me an invaluable lesson. Though he was not my favourite manager he taught me the importance of personal branding. He taught me that "You should always act and dress for your next job, not the job you currently have. Act and behave as if you already have the next job, and you will soon have that next job.". It took me a while for that message to sink in, but I totally see the value of the message.. 

You should always act and dress for your next job, not the job you currently have.

With so many people working in isolation, either remotely or freelance, it can feel like you're working in a bubble. How can community-focused career discussions help someone feel engaged and committed to their career?

Today, with technology that should not be a big concern.  With the internet and social media you are able to connect and build meaningful connections with anyone from any part of the globe. 

I have hired individuals from across the globe to work on my projects.

You are never really in isolation – the world is at your fingertips, thanks to the internet. 

Also, there are tons of events I can attend to fend off isolation. With sources such as meetup.com one can find any type of groups that he/she can visit – learn, network and build relationships. 

Building or being part of a community is not a huge hurdle. I believe most people can overcome that. 

As a matter of fact, some of my best friendships have come from Meetup groups.

Getting negative feedback is never fun, but it can be difficult to get any kind of insight into how we're doing in our careers at all, especially if we're working independently. What are some ways that negative feedback can be leveraged to further someone's career, even if it's a sometimes painful process?

I look at negative feedback as a learning & growth opportunities. 

In most cases, the person giving the feedback is not necessarily criticizing you (the individual but your actions (the quality of your work). Don't take it personally. Ask yourself "how can I take this feedback to improve my skills and my career?".

I remember when I started building my guest blogging community; I reached out to a career expert and asked if he wanted to collaborate and write for my site. He criticized my site's content, the style ,the layout, etc.  It was hurtful at that moment – but I took that advice to heart.  He provided a crucial feedback on how the blog was laid out and how difficult it was to find information . I must admit that he was right. It was clunky at that point. When I redesigned my blog, I used that advice. It never occurred to me that having a "search" box is crucial if you want readers to find what they are looking for.

It has made me a better blogger and definitely improved the website.

Sometimes feedback can be a little subtle, in community-focused career discussions, as no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. What are some other signs or cues that someone might look for when receiving feedback from someone?

Frankly, I think the best feedback is one that is direct. But sometimes, you don't get that feedback and it is annoying when you don't know what you can do to improve.

Let's take the classic job search situation.  A candidate applies for a job. In some cases, they get an email saying he/she is rejected, which I think is a good thing, so now the candidate can focus on other opportunities.

Sometimes, they don't get a call or email back, and they never know the verdict. The situation at the company could have changed, or they might even have hired someone else. Many hiring managers and recruiters don't want to be the bearer of bad news, so they never tell the candidate. This is an example of a subtle feedback, but this can be annoying. 

In most cases, as a candidate – you will know during the interview process if you are going to get the job or not. There are signs you can read. 

And if you are not sure how the interview went, ask them. You would be surprised how many hiring managers are willing to give you feedback.

If you are not sure how the interview went, ask them. You would be surprised how many hiring managers are willing to give you feedback.

For freelancers, it's not uncommon to not get any kind of feedback at all, as customers don't always feel it's their duty to alert someone to their shortcomings – they'll just take their business elsewhere. Can you offer any advice on how to solicit feedback from freelance clients? What are some reasons it's a good idea to ask for feedback from freelance clients?

I have been guilty of this myself as someone who has hired freelancers for a few projects. 

I post a job , and usually it's a project I want done right away. So, I publish the job on Upwork.com and wait for applications from freelancers. For any job you post there,  you will get 25 to 50 applications guaranteed. 

Because of time constraints, I usually don't have time to reply to each applicant. I quickly shortlist the most suitable ones for the job and start interviewing them, and then I hire the best candidate. 

It's not that I don't want to give feedback to each and every applicant – I don't have the luxury of time. 

And anyone who has hired for any position can relate to this. 

However, I have responded to every person who has followed up with me via a private message. I appreciate their initiative and am happy to share candid feedback with them. They appreciate it, when I message them back. They know exactly where they stand.

So, the advice to freelancers is that if you don't ask you don't get. If you are not proactive, you never know. Your clients are too busy (for real) or don't want to provide unsolicited feedback. Just ask. Follow up !

You've talked about how importance networking can be to truly flourish in one's career. How can community-focused career discussions possibly be turned into networking opportunities, in a tactful way?

Best example would be about people who leverage LinkedIn properly.

I am sure you have heard stories of individuals who are active on LinkedIn, they post their stories through LinkedIn Publishing and voila! one day they get a surprise job offer or someone wants to work with them.

You can read these stories almost every week on LinkedIn. 

If you are actively participating in the community (online or offline) and are continuously adding value to others without expecting anything in return ; then good things will happen. You will start building a solid network.

Whether it's a Chamber of Commerce networking event, a fundraiser or even online networking – show up, add value, help others – and opportunities will definitely come your way.

You have a whole section devoted to LinkedIn on CareerMetis.com, discussing the ins-and-outs of the popular business social network. How can LinkedIn be useful as a source for community-focused career discussion? Are there any other professional communities you'd recommend or have found to be useful?

LinkedIn is a powerful tool.  However, like any social media you can only tap into its true potential if you use it well. I have shared a specific scenario above about LinkedIn Publishing.  LinkedIn provides you a free platform to share your updates and write blog posts. You can potentially reach 500 Million users across the world, if your message is right. 

Another social media avenue I would strongly recommend is Facebook Groups.  There is a Facebook Group for just about any topic. Find your niche and join those groups.  I belong to a group called Podcast Discovery Centre where 1000s of Podcasters share their successes, stories, struggles. I joined the group as a member because I had no clue how to podcast. I have learnt a lot from this group. My Podcast has grown because of a lot of the lessons I have learnt from this group.  I consider them as a virtual mastermind.

Join Trade Associations or Groups. There is an association for just about anything today. They usually host webinars, monthly meetings, annual conferences. Go to these events, participate and learn from them. Some groups have been around for decades.  

For people looking to break into a new career, how can keeping an eye on career discussions in that industry reveal useful insights into how to move into that line of work?

If you are curious to hear about your prospective career – there is an ocean of content on the web – blogs, videos,etc.  

Attend a local meetup or event, and ask someone working in that industry about their experience. You would be surprised how many people are happy to share their experiences.

For a more personalized approach, try informational interviews. Contact someone in that industry and invite them for coffee and lunch. Here's a success story for informational interviews. 

A friend of mine is a recent psych grad, but he passionately wanted to break into digital marketing and work in that field.  Instead of applying on job boards, he took a more surgical approach. He researched a list of startups he wanted to work for, and cold emailed their VP of Marketing or CMO. He found that they were receptive to his approach and a few of them accepted his invitation for coffee. 

During those coffee meetings – he shared his passion for digital marketing, and he even impressed one person so much that he got a job. It's totally unconventional but it works. 

If you are unsure where to start I would recommend Ten Thousand Coffees -you can connect with professionals from different industries and invite them for coffee. It's an amazing way to network.

Another source (a shameless plug here :)), I know it can be hard to find the information you are looking for about a particular job or career. I have started a Podcast dedicated to helping job seekers with this challenge. I interview career professionals who have worked in a particular industry, and I ask them what their day-to-day looks like  . You can browse through the episodes and learn about various careers.

Want to learn more about breaking into the career of your dreams? Give Vocate a try today! 

Zack Andresen

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