job search samples

You might have heard that sharing examples of your work could be helpful when you’re interviewing. But is it really a good idea? How do you decide whether to share?

In some professions—like journalism—sharing a portfolio of your work is a critical part of the hiring process and is usually part of the initial application process as a prerequisite to garnering an interview.

In many fields, however, it’s not that common to provide work samples. If you’re trying to decide whether to provide work samples, here are three things to consider.

1. Don’t share anything that you don’t have your employer’s or former employer’s permission to share (or reasonable confidence that it would be acceptable).

For example, don’t share anything that might be confidential, especially if the company in question is a competitor.

A good question to ask yourself is how your current or former boss, colleagues, and senior management would feel if they found out you provided the samples in question to another company. Even if you think there’s no way they could ever find out, why take the chance?

2. Think twice before doing actual work to create the sample without being compensated.

If a company wants to have you create something specifically for them to demonstrate your abilities, keep in mind that this could be an exploitative ploy to get work done for free.

An example would be a marketing plan you developed for a product similar to one the prospective employer will be launching. They might just decide to “borrow” your marketing plan and not bother to hire you.

You should probably be compensated if the work will be extensive. Do a careful analysis of how long you think the work will take, as well as the likelihood that the employer will simply use your outstanding work for their benefit, but without hiring you.

Sometimes a candidate will create a 30-60-90 day plan for an employer. This is a fairly reasonable request for an executive candidate. The document helps show that you’re ready to step into the new role and hit the ground running. However, only take the time to do this if the interview confirmed your interest in the position, you truly want to get an offer, and you believe the employer is sincere.

3. Think carefully before volunteering to provide samples.

If the interviewer hasn’t asked for work samples, don’t proactively volunteer to share work samples unless you truly have stellar samples you’re highly enthusiastic about sharing.

You might be thinking that a proactive offer to share samples will be a nice touch to mention in your post-interview thank-you note or to mention as you finish up an interview. But think carefully first. If you’re going to offer samples, you should assume that the interviewer will take you up on your offer. Make sure you’re prepared to follow through.

When in doubt, you could ask a trusted colleague for objective feedback on just how strong the work is. An outside perspective might be helpful, because it’s hard to evaluate your own work objectively.

If you’re being asked for samples rather than offering them proactively, it might be tricky if you don’t have relevant samples you’re really proud of. You could simply say that you don’t want to share them without permission (if that would be a believable answer).


This article first appeared on


Job search networking by phone (businessman talking on phone)

Building relationships does NOT have to take place in person. This has always been the case, and it’s especially true now that remote work has become more common and executives have embraced digital tools more than ever.

However, many executives still associate the word “networking” with face-to-face interactions. I often hesitate to use that word, but often fall back on it out of laziness and habit.

I once mentioned networking to a prospective client. He sounded surprised. “Do you really think it would be worth my while to attend mixers after work?” he asked. I was blown away–I hadn’t said anything about attending any type of event! But, he had a preconceived notion about what “networking” means.

In my mind, “networking” is simply a synonym for leveraging business relationships: establishing relationships, building relationships, nurturing relationships, rekindling relationships, and ultimately leveraging them to achieve your career or business goals.

Looking at it from that standpoint, there are a lot of ways you can leverage relationships (aka “network”) without being face-to-face with people. Here are what I consider the top five.

  1. Arrange phone calls with new and existing contacts. Come up with a reason for the call–such as setting up a short call to gather information or catch up. If you can specify “5-10 minutes” or “10-15 minutes” (depending on how well you know them), that will make it easier for someone to say “yes” to a call since it doesn’t seem like it will be a big disruption.
  2. Exchange email and LinkedIn messages with new and existing contacts. This can be a great way to stay in touch after a phone call or to rekindle an existing relationship rather than asking for a phone call out of the blue.
  3. Post and comment on social media. Maintain an active presence on LinkedIn; “like” and comment on the things your connections post (be sure to keep it professional!). You can also leverage Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. A comment on LinkedIn isn’t going to land you a job, but similar to #2, this can be a way to stay in touch.
  4. Ask for introductions. The adage “who you know is more important than what you know” should really be “who you know and who your contacts know.” Your existing network might not be enough to land that dream job. Use LinkedIn to find out how you’re connected with companies of interest and ask your contacts for introductions to the people they know at those companies.
  5. Attend virtual events. There have already been virtual events for years, but now there are more than ever. This can include webinars, conference calls, Zoom meetings, and virtual conferences. Find out what the professional associations in your industry are doing to help people learn and stay connected.

This article first appeared on

Research from Microsoft revealed in 2015 that the average attention span had dropped from 12 seconds to a mere 8 seconds. That means that when someone asks you what you do, or you’re writing your LinkedIn summary, or sending a self-introduction to a recruiter, you’d better be able to get the person interested QUICKLY.

What not to do

A while back I was doing an initial consultation with an impressive exec at a Fortune 500 company. I asked whether he’d given thought to his personal brand. “Yes!” he said, excitedly. He explained that his company had helped its executives with this. Then he proceeded to say, “My personal brand has three pillars…” and he rambled on for two minutes.

I’m not exaggerating. Two whole minutes! If he’d been saying this to someone he was meeting at a business event, the person might be trying to figure out a polite way to excuse themself.

When attention spans average 8 seconds, two minutes is about 112 seconds too long.

Maybe your personal brand really does have three components. Fine, but you’re going to need a way to express it a whole lot faster.

A better way to express your personal brand

It’s important to go through a process to identify themes of your career, value you’ve delivered for your employers (or your clients), and what differentiates you from the competition.

Once you have a good grasp on all of the above, the next step is to identify a short phrase that can be used to highlight your brand. Short, like about the length of a headline–typically 5-10 words, although it could be even shorter than that.

If this short phrase piques someone’s interest, you can then answer any question the person has and even describe how you get results for your employers or clients (this can be especially impressive if you say you have a unique formula, method, or process).

You can use your short brand phrase as a slogan throughout all personal marketing documents. Your executive resume can incorporate the phrase in an artful way. The LinkedIn header image can be customized with that phrase on top of a relevant background image, and the LinkedIn “About” section (formerly the Summary) should incorporate that brand in a conversational and interesting way.

Perhaps most importantly, you want to have an approach for initial conversations that will help to immediately differentiate you in a memorable way without boring the listener.

This is especially important if you don’t want to be placed in a box based on your current role. Often, people will draw conclusions you might not want. Example: You’re a director at a Fortune 100 company, but you really want to be at a startup. Or vice versa. If you introduce your job title and company too quickly in a conversation, you’ll be typecast.

Want some homework?

Practice what you’d say if you only had 8 seconds to get someone’s attention. Remember that you don’t have to squeeze everything in there.

Need help with all of this? Let’s work together to transform your executive brand, LinkedIn profile, and executive resume–go to Let’s Talk and you can set up a time for a short chat. 😊


This article originally appeared on

In addition to the plethora of common interview questions you need to prepare for, you should also be prepared to address questions about your resume. About ANYTHING on your resume–even the smallest of details.

If you stumble or seem confused when an interviewer asks about something on the resume, that could be the end of your candidacy.

Here are the three ways you should be ready to speak about your resume content:

  1. Discuss and expand: Be ready for questions about any of the experience or summary bullets and even any of the skills if you have a list of core competencies. You should be ready to expand on any of those things. If a bullet point is referencing a specific success story, be prepared to expand on that with a full CAR story (Challenge you faced, Action you took, Result that was achieved).
  2. Clarify any misunderstandings: No matter how well-written and thoroughly proofread your resume is, there will still be instances when a reader doesn’t understand something, or a mistake somehow slipped in there. Be ready to clarify without getting flustered. Apologize for the mistake or lack of clarity, explain the correct information, and move on.
  3. Explain the actual resume: This doesn’t happen often, but you might be asked questions pertaining to the writing and designing of the resume. Decide beforehand if you’ll confess to having help (if you hired a professional), and how to explain that choice. If you’ll pass it off as your own, be ready to answer questions about how you created it or used a template.

Make sure you’re familiar with every word on your resume and DON’T be caught off-guard by questions about it.

Interviewers will often interpret any confusion on your part in the worst possible way–assuming that you must have lied or fabricated information (remember lies is harder than remembering the truth, after all).

This article first appeared on

I was recently interviewed by Reader’s Digest on the topic of “10 Things You’re Doing at Work that CEOs Wouldn’t.”

Although I’m not a CEO myself, I’ve been fortunate to soak up insight from the C-level executives I’ve worked with over the years, learning about some of the leadership practices and habits that are the most effective for today’s workplace.

The example I shared in the article dealt with communication. Among other things, I said, “My clients who have successfully advanced to the CEO position do an exceptional job of helping team members embrace change. They communicate transparently and seek input from subordinates.”

Other topics addressed in the article included:

  • Mindsets and strategies
  • Ego
  • Accountability
  • “That’s not my job!”
  • Having “yes” people around
  • Competing against co-workers
  • Networking

My clients who are already at a senior executive level tend to be quite savvy with most of these–except, sometimes, the last one: networking. Specifically, it talks about the mistake of only networking when you’re looking for a job.

Too often I have executive clients who have allowed relationships to languish, and they unexpectedly find themselves facing a career transition. At that point it’s awkward to reach out since it will be obvious that your job search is the impetus, rather than a sincere desire for an ongoing relationship. (I’ll admit that I’m sometimes guilty myself of not maintaining contact as much as I’d like!)

You can check out the article here.

We’ve all had those days when we want to yell at our boss, quit, and storm out of the office. But burning bridges isn’t the best way to build your career, and chances are you’ll probably regret how you handled it.

Even if it is time to leave for new opportunities, you’ll usually be better off looking for a job when you still have a job. After accepting a position where you can be truly happy, you can put in your two-week notice and say good-bye to your boss and co-workers without damaging those relationships.

The challenge is keeping your cool when your frustration level with your job is off the charts.

Here are some tips for avoiding a meltdown your office will be talking about for years.

1. Call an understanding friend or your spouse to get your concerns off your chest.

Instead of sending your boss an angry email or storming into his office, tell someone you trust first. Just talking about it usually helps you feel better. (However, don’t complain excessively to your co-workers, which can create a toxic environment.)

2. Take a mental health day.

After a really bad day at work, consider calling in sick and taking a “mental health day” the next day. This shouldn’t be a regular occurrence, but if you know you would probably quit or explode at your boss if you go to work, you’re probably better off staying home.

3. Go to a therapist.

Venting to spouses and friends can be cathartic, but they’re not therapists. If you need more support, consider seeing a therapist. It’s not a sign of weakness and doesn’t make you “crazy.”

4. Keep a diary, or write a letter to your boss.

Writing about your feelings can be an amazing release. If you like writing, try maintaining a diary to write about your workplace frustrations. You could also write a letter to your boss on your home computer, but never send it.

5. Wait until calming down before sending an email.

Hitting “send” when you’re fuming is usually a bad idea. Some experts recommend setting it aside for 24 hours before sending. At the very least, read your email before sending it and ask yourself if everything in it is respectful and professional.

6. Don’t be disrespectful.

As in any personal relationships, tone is key. If you need to address concerns you have, avoid accusatory and inflammatory language and state plainly what the concern is in a non-judgmental manner.

In career and life, relationships are everything. Don’t burn bridges with an employer by behaving unprofessionally.

This article by Kelly Donovan first appeared on Tim’s Strategy.

Last night, I was fortunate to have a conversation with a highly successful entrepreneur who offered some excellent advice for improving and growing my business.

Previously, I’d been stuck on one stumbling block that was holding me back (keeping me stuck). Afterward, the path I need to take was clear.

This experience made me think about the power of mentorship and why you need to be mentored by someone who has been there. This is true whether your goal is career advancement, changing careers, or growing a business.

You would be amazed how many successful people have had mentors along the way who helped them. In fact, I suspect that most successful people have probably been mentored at some point.

Advice from random people isn’t nearly as valuable as advice from mentors who have achieved what you’re trying to achieve. And books are great, but a book can’t talk to you and give you tailored feedback.

Securing a Mentor

At this point you might be wondering where and how to find a mentor.

You might look within your organization for a leader you admire who is two or three (or more) steps above you.

You can also locate a successful person in your field through a professional association or by using a tool like LinkedIn, and contact the person.

I listened to career guru Don Orlando give an amazing presentation about mentorship in which he shared his expertise on approaching prospective mentors thoughtfully (learn more in this short clip from his presentation).

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The worst thing someone can say is “no.”

Working with a Mentor

Once you’ve found a mentor, you want to make the most of the relationship.

For starters, you need to open minded about any advice your mentor provides. Don’t shoot down ideas or suggestions right away without considering them. Instead, ask more questions.

It’s also important that you actually implement your mentor’s advice and tell the mentor that you implemented it. (Remember that good advice is only helpful when it gets followed.)

Also, knowing that you’re actually benefiting from the mentorship and using the advice will give the mentor positive encouragement to continue mentoring you. Otherwise, the conversations are just wasted time.

And, finally, be sure to express your gratitude regularly. Find ways to return the favor by helping your mentor. In the case of entrepreneurial mentorship, your mentor might appreciate compensation. Bottom-line: just make sure it’s not a one-way relationship.

If you’re serious about achieving your goals, getting mentorship is critical. Don’t let anything hold you back from taking this important step toward your dreams.

Thank you, laughlin for the great photo on Flickr.

This article by Kelly Donovan first appeared on Tim’s Strategy.