Does Following Up Make You Glow? [Seeking Executive Assistant/Project Manager]

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To: Potential Candidate

Start Date: Monday, August 25th 2014

Application Deadline: Monday, August 18th 2014

RE: Seeking an Executive Assistant / Project Manager

About Career Outcomes Matter LLC (melissallarena.com)

Career Outcomes Matter LLC is a New York-based talent management consulting/career-coaching firm. Our mission is to provide firms with strategies and tools to support successful employee transitions, and help high-performers use their “superpowers” to propel career leaps.

Launched in 2011, we are looking for a detail-oriented executive assistant/project manager whose sole purpose in his or her professional life is to help decrease the time-to-market of product/service launches for the CEO of COM.

This arrangement is for 10 hours a week worth of work in exchange for a 45-minute career/business coaching session for each week worked. Side note: One standalone 45-minute coaching session is $295. This job is virtual for the most part.

Work will include, but is not limited to:
Helping the CEO of Career Outcomes Matter LLC directly to:

• Develop full scale project plans (blogs, social media strategy, email marketing, web updates)
• Organize and schedule CEO’s calendar based on project tasks etc.
• Constantly monitor and report on progress of all projects to all stakeholders
• Partner with CEO throughout execution of business building projects
• Implement and manage project changes and interventions to achieve project outputs
• Support CEO administratively throughout client engagements
• Complete other ad hoc assignments

Who is this right for?
• Someone who wants to build her own business or expedite its growth OR someone who wants to transition in his career and sees the value of learning from an expert
• Someone who wants to partner with an entrepreneur
• Someone whose closet is color-coded, hates typos, and enjoys providing elegant solutions
• Someone who knows how to squeeze the value out of resources in a limited resource firm
• Someone who wants to build highly marketable skills including building a digital fan-base
• Someone who wants to work remotely and loves Skype or other collaboration tools

Ideal candidates are:
• Able to organize chaos; are great at not letting any balls drop
• Exceptionally responsive (within 24 hours is fair); Persuasive in a sales-like way
• Strong communicators (both verbal and written), self-starters, sharp, and energetic
• Resourceful (able to find a way)
• Able to prioritize well-thought out ideas (i.e. not just addicted to brainstorming)

Pay – Barter arrangement – In exchange for your 10 hour workweek I am providing you a 45-minute coaching session for each week worked. Ideally, this can be a long-term partnership.

How to Apply
• Email Melissa@MelissaLlarena.com a cover letter and resume by August 18th, 2014.
• FYI, I will request references if I reach out to you following my receipt of your marketing materials.
• PS: In your cover letter, please tell me why you want to partner with an entrepreneur and what you’d hope to learn in the process.

Mission Possible: How to Thrive As a Working Mother of Young Children

r-TWIN-MOMS-GIVE-BIRTH-large570The statistics for women are alarming and indicate that our measurement of success needs to change. As I continued reading [Thrive, by Arianna Huffington] while nursing my twins and watching my toddler, I thought about whether someone like me could find the time to actually thrive now, not just when my kids are in school full-time. I’m a working mother with my own career coaching business and three boys under the age of 4 at home. The idea of focusing on my well-being, let alone sitting down for more than 30 seconds, initially felt impossible. I wanted everything at home to be under control while also stopping at almost nothing to delight my clients with white glove service. However, I’ve learned this mindset is hurting, not helping, me.

The only way for me to thrive today — when my toddler feels the need to continuously test my limits — is to redefine how I view success. Generally we reflect and reconsider aspirations on the cusp of a big change such as a major move, death or birth. I have experienced all three in the last several months and have learned that life is fluid, and if you live it rigidly, you will drive yourself into the ground. The key to thriving with a toddler and twins is to prioritize how I want to measure success.

Here are four takeaways I’ve realized are crucial for thriving, especially for new moms who feel as though they have too much on their plates. It takes some maneuvering but it is possible to live a third metric life.

Check out the rest of my Huffington Post Article via this link: http://huff.to/1z7B5es

 

The Most Strategic Job Hunt Tip Ever [Radio Interview]

Competitive intelligence is the act of gathering information from competitors, then analyzing that information to reach a conclusion. Host Cady Chesney and Melissa Llarena are going to uncover the secrets of using competitive intelligence in a job search.

Learn how to critically think through a job description, evaluate the right people, and benchmark yourself against prior successful job candidates to gain a competitive edge in your job search.

RADIO INTERVIEW:

http://www.localjobnetwork.com/radio/details?rp_id=613&s.ra_id=971&s.rc_id=11

Who Else Wants a Great LinkedIn Summary?

linkedinsummariesHave you ever noticed the difference between a good LinkedIn profile and a great one? Both have most, if not all, of the sections filled out—a headline, a timeline of professional experiences, several recommendations and maybe a few personal interests listed. However, the great LinkedIn profile likely has something the good one does not: an unforgettable, compelling summary.

The LinkedIn summary is arguably the most important part of your profile. Why? Because it’s one of the first opportunities a recruiter or potential employer has to find out who you are, and we all know first impressions matter. It’s also your chance to tell your story in a way that sets you apart from everyone else. Consider it a lengthier version of an elevator pitch that uses 2,000 characters to answer the question, “Who are you and what do you do?”

Crafting a superb LinkedIn summary is not easy. In fact, this section is often the hardest for my clients and the main reason they come to me for help when working on their LinkedIn profiles. I guide them on how to use LinkedIn as effectively as possible to help them get their next job. I also share several LinkedIn tips to draw more eyes to their profiles. Below are a few initial steps you can take now to move your LinkedIn profile from good to great:

Know Your Hook

When creating your LinkedIn summary, first ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I do what I do? What’s my passion and my story?
  • What are three of my biggest career accomplishments? What am I most proud of and what has led to me being promoted in the past?
  • What training or skills do I have that differentiates me from others with a similar background? What do I think I bring to the table that others do not?

These questions will help you identify your hook. In music, the hook is what typically catches the ear of the listener. It’s what makes them want to hear more. So, think of your LinkedIn summary as a song and determine what about your summary will hook the reader so that they want to learn more.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Recruiters search LinkedIn using keywords, so if you want to show up on a recruiter’s radar, you need to anticipate the keywords they will use to find someone in the position you would like to have. Once you have identified those keywords, weave them throughout your summary in a way that does not take away from your story but still gets your profile noticed. When in doubt, check out the profiles of people who are working in your desired field and see how they use keywords.  You can also find ten relevant job descriptions and highlight the most commonly used keywords. Once you’ve identified those keywords, make sure to use them in your summary and, while you’re at it, incorporate a few into your headline.

Aim for a Tone That Fits Your Desired Employer(s)

This is a tip not enough people pay attention to: make sure the tone of your summary fits the company you want to work for! Are you looking for a job in a conservative environment? If so, don’t be too out-of-the-box in your LinkedIn summary. You want to envision the ideal candidate the recruiter is looking for and think about how you would tell your story as that candidate. If you’re interested in a position within an off-the-wall creative agency, then now’s the time to show your inventive thinking and unique background in a way that screams off-the-wall creative! *Side note: It’s helpful to scour LinkedIn to see how existing employees within your desired companies talk about the work they do. A key to success for many of my clients has been using the jargon they see on LinkedIn during interviews to show that they are the right fit for the company. Why not do the same digitally and use some of that jargon in your LinkedIn profile? If you do, you’ll be a few steps ahead of the competition.

 

Don’t Forget Appearances

Have you ever seen a long, winding paragraph and thought, I don’t want to read that. Well, the same can be said for a long, winding LinkedIn summary. Remember that how the content looks is just as important as the content itself. Break up your summary and present it in a way that’s easily legible. Some people like to list their specialties at the end, but you may find it more visually interesting to position them in the middle of your summary. Unlike your resume, here you can easily play around with layouts and find the best option by noting how many people viewed your profile before the changes and comparing that with the number of visitors after the changes have been made. Also try reformatting your headline to see what visually appealing features make the most impact.

 

Tell the Reader What to Do Next

A great LinkedIn summary doesn’t just tell a captivating story, it provides a call-to-action for the reader, enticing them to take a next step. This may be in the form of an email so that the recruiter can get in touch with you directly, or a URL for a website you want the reader to visit. Think about what you want the reader to do at the end of your summary and make that known. It makes getting in touch much easier for the recruiter and will draw more attention to whatever you would like to highlight.
Once you’ve completed these steps, gauge how your profile stacks up against other great ones and look to see if the number of people who view your profile increases. I’m willing to bet it does! For more LinkedIn tips and secrets, contact me for a consultation and guidance on how to write an unforgettable LinkedIn profile that tells your great story.

 

What Hiring Managers Ought to Know About Mother’s Day

mothersdayDon’t buy me flowers for Mother’s Day. They die. Don’t buy me chocolate either because it makes me fat. Mimosas won’t work because I’m nursing twins and sleeping is a pipe dream for 2014. So when I was asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I decided to think about it as a profession-oriented career coach who has built her practice encouraging mothers to reevaluate their contributions at home in preparation for their reentry into the workforce.

What does this career-focused mom want for Mother’s Day from her men (I have three boys, one toddler and baby twins)? My request is forward-looking. Boys, when you grow up to become men in positions of power, I want you to champion prospective hires who are mothers and made the risky decision to leave the workforce, whether for one year or 10 years. Instead of seeing their “mom” time as an employment gap, count that time as their focusing on mitigating costs. Evaluate her accomplishments on the same playing field as that of executives, consider her childrearing years as career-building rather than career-destroying, and pay for the new skill sets that she acquired as a people leader of her household. Here’s why, and later, I’ll explain how.

Few women reenter the workforce full time. About 43% of professional women leave their jobs after having children. Out of that number, 74% of those females will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and about 40% return full time, all according to a recent study from the Center for Work-Life Policy. Some moms don’t want to return. Others are given poor job offers that penalize them for their decision. My focus is on preventing the latter under your watch.

Now, I anticipate that for the next eighteen years on every Mother’s Day, you will say how much you appreciate my sacrifices and contributions to shaping the men you are. So take a leap. Give the same dignity to mothers like myself in a professional setting. Just like we moms don’t leave our wallet-sized pictures of you at home when we go to the office, we also don’t leave at home our ability to drive change in individuals as well as organizations.  

If you drive this change in perspective within your organizations, counting our times as moms as part of our professional careers, I promise it will in turn help your career. Moms have a $2 trillion purchasing power in the U.S. alone. We like working for and doing business with companies who invest in us. Why else would companies try to make the top  Working Mother 100 Best Companies every year? We are some of the most loyal employees. It will make business sense to endorse mothers. So how can you rethink a mother’s child-rearing experiences so that it aligns with your organizations’ needs?

Here are the top four ways to rethink a mother’s experience while interviewing her so that you’ll facilitate the reentrance of career-driven mothers when you boys grow up.

1. Don’t think about the time she “took off” to focus on parenting as an employment gap—it’s the time when she decided to focus on costs rather than revenues.

A real employment gap is when someone stops contributing outside of themselves, not just any time someone stops collecting a paycheck. It’s not like we decided to backpack through Europe and focus only on ourselves. Most of us took greater responsibilities than we ever have professionally once we became mothers. I’ve worked with some of the most influential moms within male-dominated, cutthroat industries and they told me that being a mom is the harder job. Didn’t you see that viral commercial? Us moms didn’t need this video to know what we do is tough. So here’s the new perspective that I want you to have while interviewing a mother: think about her “time off” as the time when she focused on mitigating costs—emotional, physical, spiritual, as well as monetary.

Many moms leave their careers because they believe that the costs of not being there for their children and/or family would outweigh continuing on that corporate ladder. They are thinking beyond the fact that childcare is astronomical and it’s not worth it for them to stay employed if they have two-plus children. Instead, what it takes to compel a professional to step off the corporate ladder involves much more anticipated costs. So when you ask an interviewee who is a mom why she took “time off,” do so with the background that during that year she was focusing on traditional as well as untraditional costs.

 

2. Evaluate her daily accomplishments as a mother against the same measurements that the most senior executives of the most profitable organizations in the world are held against—they can take it since they birthed you.

 

Chances are, you are going to have to spearhead this new way of evaluating a mother’s accomplishments within your organizations, so you really have to believe that there are both tangible as well as intangible values in what a mother does. Admittedly, it’s 75% the role of an interviewee to link her actions to her immediate as well as longer-term results. However, make the jump 25% of the way. Use the same measuring sticks that you hold your highest potentials to.

 

Consider what that interviewee has done in terms of performance goals as well as leadership goals. For example, if a mother during her time off stretched her allocated event budget by 20% YOY with a focus on identifying vendors for seven magical Etsy and Pinterest-inspired birthdays on shoestring budgets, then make the leap that she can accomplish a performance goal of squeezing the waste out of any corporate budget using the same negotiation skills. Alternatively, if she mediated 135-plus disputes involving reluctant and difficult personalities as a parent to middle-aged children, then give her the credit that she can similarly coach and mediate adults with whom she can reason—usually.

 

3. Don’t assume a mother wants to take a step back or that her skills are stale—children grow rapidly and have different needs; the only way mothers survive is by adjusting to new situations on the spot or by becoming “Google ninjas” to close knowledge gaps.

 

Corporate America is trying to facilitate the reentry of mothers into the workforce by offering returnships, such as JPMorgan Chase is doing. I commend those efforts. However, I don’t commend organizations that think they are doing moms a favor by offering career-oriented mothers jobs that are less demanding than their original career paths would have been had they never left. That is a sign that the organization does not consider a mother’s “time off” as a career-enhancing experience.

 

Again, I want you three to think about a mother’s time being a mother as career-building rather than career-destroying. See a mother’s experiences outside of your industry as time spent having to learn about a new target audience. Consider her new role as a mother as an expression of her ability to be the Swiss Army knife that any organization needs to win in the most competitive industries where each employee has to bring their best to the table and do whatever it takes (beyond their job description) to get ahead of the competition. Listen to her stories of when she had to exhibit one of the greatest skills that any mom possesses, her ability to be resourceful. Then compare her stories with those of other interviewees who have exercised the same skills (what opportunities are you considering those people for?) and I want you to consider mothers for the same roles within the same human resources–designed job bands… not those below.

 

And as far as a mother’s skills being dull, that’s no excuse not to hire a mother… mothers are Google ninjas. There’s YouTube today. I can’t even imagine what there will be tomorrow. As a primary caregiver, mothers have to constantly go from novice to expert status on a myriad of complex issues such as healthcare and technology. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time to raise our IQ and we need to figure things out while our child is screaming in pain. Imagine how easy it would be for a mom to figure out what budding social media channel to leverage to reach teens in Indonesia without having to search with a crier in tow?

 

4. Don’t base a reentering mom’s salary expectations upon her pre-mom base salary.

 

If I haven’t received a paycheck in 10 years yet I’ve been mothering instead, think about this calculation. While the value of my contributions to my family and society is $118,905, according to Salary.com, instead think about what you would pay a professional with X years of experience as a general manager in addition to her pre-mom time working in corporate America. Although a mother may not have the multiple educational degrees to practice medicine, law, nutrition, business or IT, she does bring the hands-on experiences to justify credit for her “time off.” Reward her rather than ignoring that time away and penalizing her with an 18% wage dip. Use your analytical thinking to inform your compensation package for a mother in the same way that you evaluate the appropriate compensation for untraditional experienced employees such as military veterans (even if imperfectly).

 

Don’t be part of the problem. I hope I raised you better than that. The rubber hits the ground right here. Are you willing to pay a mother for the experience she garnered in an office as well as at home? If you expect a working professional to bring the best of herself to any assignment, then you’ll need to compensate her for those skills and experiences.

 

My shorthand for justifying salary increases for my clients has traditionally included helping them think about the revenue they have brought into a firm, the costs saved, or the drastic organizational changes that they spearheaded. Similarly, with those three ideas, review her motherly experiences to ascertain her prospective financial contributions. For example, if a mom took ownership for her child’s education by selecting the educational system, helping with homework, driving her to visit colleges and reading scholarship applications, give that mom credit for saving her household both the cost of a tutor as well as any grants her children have earned. If you are so impressed by an executive penning a multimillion dollar deal on a proven product/service and you are willing to pay him more for that experience, then do so when you hear about a mom who did the same with fewer resources, no already written sales enablement tools and an unproven brand (at least on the world’s stage).

Conclusion

Now, I may be asking for a bit too much from you three boys, but then again, didn’t you ask for a lot from me? Rather than give YOU something that dies within a year, I hope to have given you a rational way of making business-building decisions as you evaluate the talent you’ll need to help you bring your unique legacies to fruition. In turn, what I am asking you to do is to keep bringing mine to light. It begins with bringing a mother’s time being a mom to your interview conversations. While it may seem too personal, I have included a sample general-mother résumé rewritten as a professional document to help you rethink the way moms have contributed to their organizations as well as driven long-lasting change during their employment gaps.

Remember: don’t hold her to lower standards than any other interviewee. Instead, try to compare apples-to-apples, which I believe is not what is happening very often today.

Should I Put That On My Resume?

resumeobjectivesWriting a great resume is hard. To condense your background and accomplishments into 1-2 pages and have it stand out amongst hundreds of resumes is painful but necessary. Crafting a top-notch resume requires being thoughtful and knowing what to include to help you get your foot in the door.

As someone with a unique professional background who has transitioned across multiple business units and now coaches others on how to do the same, I understand how to build a resume that stays true to who you are while differentiating you from the competition. I am also well-versed in helping clients answer the question, “Should I put that on my resume?”

Here are the 10 common scenarios I have encountered and my advice on what to include:

 

1. Scenario: You worked full-time at a company for less than a year

    Verdict: It depends.

 

No, if you left on poor terms and do not have a reference from that job.

Yes, if you left on good terms and the opportunity fills a resume gap (e.g. time or skill).

 

Throughout my years of coaching professionals with varying backgrounds, the response to this scenario has often been yes. Explaining a gap in a resume is always something that should be proactively addressed in person and on paper.

 

2. Scenario: You freelanced and took on short-term assignments while unemployed

    Verdict: Yes.

 

Freelancing shows that you’re a self-starter, so it’s important you highlight that quality. Depending on the length of your freelance work, you can either list each assignment separately or put all your freelance jobs under one title (tip: if you have several clients, create a company name for yourself and list all freelance work under it).

 

3. Scenario: You volunteer for an organization on the weekends

    Verdict: Absolutely!

 

This is a great opportunity to highlight what you’ve accomplished as a volunteer. It also shows strong leadership and project management, and you can use your volunteer work to illustrate skills that are relevant to the position you want. Include this under additional data or interests.

Side note: Use this opportunity to showcase your extracurricular interests to your advantage. For example, one client of mine chose to highlight his commitment to education because his prospective employer also displayed a similar commitment through the company’s CSR efforts.

 

4. Scenario: You want to share your job objectives with potential employers

    Verdict: Leave this out.

 

While objective statements were once seen as something to list on a resume, this is no longer the case. Instead, focus on the hiring manager’s wants and include a summary statement that will speak to the desired skill set for the job being filled. Here are examples of good summaries for inspiration.

 

5. Scenario: You are active on social media

    Verdict: Yes, however proceed with caution.

 

It’s okay to include your LinkedIn profile since it is likely your most professional account, but make sure there’s consistency. The part that takes most people out of the running for a job is when their resume and LinkedIn profile do not complement one another and the information does not match. Depending on the job you want (i.e. aspiring digital marketer), it may also be appropriate for you to list another social media channel, like your Twitter handle. Just ensure the content is appropriate.

 

6. Scenario: You want to include your references

    Verdict: No.

 

While you should already have references lined up prior to your job search, there is no need to include them on your resume, nor should you put “references available upon request.” The hiring manager will ask for references when needed.

 

7. Scenario: You have a side business, project or blog

    Verdict: Yes, however proceed with caution.

 

This depends on the job and whether you think revealing this information will help or harm you. Some companies may have policies about side businesses, so make sure to find out this information before sharing anything. If your project or blog is of a personal nature, then include this if it will strengthen your application.

 

8. Scenario: You have several interests and hobbies to share

    Verdict: Yes, if is builds your professional brand AND makes you interesting.

 

If applicable, interests and hobbies can help build a rapport, though they can also be boring so be thoughtful about what you decide to include (e.g. your love of traveling is common, but your love of traveling to collect different teas from all over the world is unique).

 

9. Scenario: You are not a U.S. citizen

    Verdict: No, however with a BIG caveat.

 

You should not include this information on your resume, but be prepared to explain your situation at some point. If you have a green card, put this in your cover letter and reiterate this fact during the interview process. If you require sponsorship, do not include in your cover letter or resume but be honest when asked about your work status.

 

10. Scenario: You left school early and did not finish a degree

    Verdict: Yes, if it helps your story. No, if it hinders your story.

 

The best responses to the interview question, “Tell me about yourself” include a clear connection between your past career decisions and your future goals. Your resume should tell a similar clear story, though not everyone thinks strategically about their career before taking the next step. Therefore, the best way to address this data point is by asking yourself, “Is this going to confuse a recruiter or does it align with what I want to pursue?”

With careful thought and the right information, you can create a resume that will push you to the forefront. I can help as well.

IMG_4115To gain insight into how a job hunting expert would address your specific scenario so that you can reap the benefits of your most powerful and brand-building experiences, set up a 15-minute consultation with me.  I have helped professionals at every stage of the job hunting process and will help you feel confident that you have put your best foot forward.

Sample Resume Summary Statement (s)

SUMMARY 1

X-plus years in business-development career includes:
· Selling online solutions for X-plus years in start-ups to selling offline offerings in conglomerates
· Turning weak ties to long-term ties with Fortune 500 firms (ex: MSFT relationship exceeding 10 years)
· Forging win-win partnerships (ex: Company X deal that influenced Company Y buyout by Company Z)
· Devising new revenue models and streams when traditional models were no longer selling or sustainable
· Selling cross-disciplinary solutions (ex: digital ads, analyst research, sponsorships, and database marketing)

SUMMARY 2

X-plus year career as a programmer and technical architect includes:
• Working on Java-based three-tier systems as an independent software engineer for X-plus years
• Earning “inventor” status on seven patents while working for Company A
• Going from idea through operations and then on-going improvement while adjusting to business needs
• Gaining recognition for the ability to lead IT teams from employers and managing up to X employees
• Collaborating with cross-functional partners to ensure a user-friendly interface across sectors

[JOB OPENING] Seeking a business development consultant (i.e. sales lead whisperer)

Ideal Start Date: Wednesday, April 16th 2014 (however, flexible for the best candidate)

About Career Outcomes Matter LLC (melissallarena.com)

Career Outcomes Matter LLC is a New York-based talent management consulting/career-coaching firm.  Our mission is to provide firms with strategies and tools to support successful employee transitions, and help high-performers use their “superpowers” to propel career leaps. Launched in 2011, we are looking for a business development/marketing consultant who appreciates highly strategic thinking, works well when faced with few resources, and would love to bring out the lead generation whisperer in them. This engagement is for 10 hours a week.

Work will include, but is not limited to:

Helping the CEO of Career Outcomes Matter LLC directly to:

  • Inform, create, and manage a project plan outlining the firm’s B2C/B2B strategy
  • Manage Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn social media posts via HootSuite
  • Audit and repackage materials to create marketable offerings that sell themselves
  • Grow CRM database, manage its segmentation efforts, and focus on conversions
  • Identify newsletter partnership opportunities and lead their well-planned execution
  • Automate or streamline existing manual processes
  • Complete other ad hoc assignments as necessary

What’s in it for you:

  • Build your resume by adding value to an entrepreneur through tangible results
  • Test out business development ideas that larger organizations would not let you test nor lead
  • Gain expertise around how to squeeze the value out of resources in a limited resource firm
  • Access to a manager known for empowering consultants with highly marketable skills
  • Gather social media experience that any organization would desire in an aspiring digital market
  • Work remotely and around your school/work/life schedule

Qualifications:

Ideal candidates are:

  • Type A professionals who thrive when given goals
  • Exceptionally responsive (i.e. deliver quality work)
  • Meticulous (and like using that word)
  • Strong communicators, self-starters, sharp, energetic, and well-organized
  • Resourceful (able to find a way)
  • Able to sense big opportunities and jump on them
  • Able to prioritize well-thought out ideas (i.e. not just addicted to brainstorming) and are willing to take them all the way through execution

Pay

• $10 an hour + BONUS potential based on leads generated that are closed  

Here is a Method That is Helping Females and Minorities Gain Board Seats

boarddirectorBeing on a company’s board of directors has many benefits for your career and overall professional growth. As a board member, you get to serve in a position of leadership by providing strategic direction and advice to ensure the company stays true to its mission. It also broadens your network and reach in unforeseen ways.

As Aisha Barry, a board member for the Ohio State School of Chemical Engineering, describes it: “Being on a board has required me to listen more intently to the opinions of others (in these cases, peers with equal or more experience but in a different area), integrate this thinking quickly and help define winning solutions for an operation that I don’t have the opportunity to impact daily or via my management skills.”

The benefits of being a board member can be immeasurable. However, for many boards, diversity remains an issue. According to the nonprofit organization Catalyst, only 16.6% of Fortune 500 board seats are held by women, trailing behind South Africa and several western European countries. Minorities don’t fare much better, with 13.3% representation on Fortune 500 Boards. Of that percentage, minority women make up a dismal 3.2%. Though the numbers have steadily increased over the years, they’re still abysmally low.

Fortunately, proof is emerging that having diversity on corporate boards actually benefits companies. An article from Slate details how boards with women on them are more aggressive and result in better performance. But how does one get on a corporate board, especially as a woman or underrepresented minority? To get a seat at the table, you have to develop a strategy that will take you to the next level. Here are three recommendations I have for becoming a potential candidate for the board seat.

1. Find an influential sponsor

Mentors are great. They provide guidance on a number of professional situations that you encounter. However, when it comes to progressing within a company to a position of decision-making, particularly as a woman or minority, sponsors are vital. They act as your advocate and introduce you to the right people, making sure you and your work are noticed.

Because sponsors tend to be in positions of influence, acquiring one is easier said than done. It involves strategic networking with decision makers and high-level conversations with senior-level professionals (note: use my Starter Kit to guide you). Your work and reputation must also be sponsor-worthy. Sponsors put their names on the line whenever advocating for you, so it’s important to add value by excelling in what you do and helping the sponsor with his or her success. Once you’ve established a solid relationship with the sponsor, be honest about your interest in becoming a board member. It won’t happen overnight, but a sponsor will help facilitate the steps necessary to getting that seat on the board.

2. Discover your niche and leverage it

When it comes to getting on a corporate board, it’s important to do your homework. Who are the current members of the board and what do they bring to the table? Discover what makes each person unique. Then, looking at your own skill set, how do you think you can be helpful to the board members? Identify those strengths that set you apart and focus on ways to leverage them within your career.

For example, you may notice there is no one on the board who excels in social media marketing, an area that you are familiar with and think would be useful to the board. Use the opportunity to learn everything you can related to social media marketing and showcase your expertise in a way that gets noticed by the right people.

3. Don’t be afraid to highlight your leadership skills

When looking at positions of leadership in today’s workplace, women and minorities continue to lag behind white males. A recent study shows that when it comes to leadership roles, the assumption that women prefer less demanding positions because of their lifestyle is false. Rather, women—particularly women of color—do not advance as quickly as their peers due to inherent biases in the workplace.

To counter the incorrect assumptions about women and minorities when it comes to leadership, you need to show your ability to lead. It may require spearheading a large-scale project at work or creating opportunities through other avenues in your career. The goal is to not be afraid to step up to the plate and show what you are capable of. This will help you when it comes to leading as a board member. Ronald Rapatalo, who’s a board member of the Highbridge Community Life Center, elaborates: “Being on a board, I get to practice my leadership in a different way than how I lead at work. For example, I’ve gotten to work on fundraising, which is not part of my daily work.”  

Conclusion

Getting on a board may seem like a daunting task but it can be done. As Carolyn Thomas, board member of Girls Inc. of NW Oregon—says, “Don’t let fear be a roadblock. If you have the time and desire to serve on a board then make it happen by putting that desire out to your network. You will be amazed by what opportunities and connections exist to help you find the right board to serve on.”

With the right combination of influential sponsors, in-demand professional skills and visible leadership qualities, you can work your way to becoming a strong contender for a seat on the board and to obtaining a broader network which will help you thrive in your career.

I have worked with many female and minority professionals through my career coaching by Career Outcomes Matter to empower these individuals to progress to positions of leadership and influence. By subscribing to my site, you can gain insight into how these transitions have occurred and how you can be next.

A 90-Day Plan: The Key to Getting an Offer

90dayplanWant to make a good impression during your interview with the hiring manager? Come in prepared to answer and ask thought-provoking questions. Want to make an even bigger impression on the hiring manager and differentiate yourself from the other candidates? Let him or her know what you will do your first 90 days on the job.

The first 90 days of any job is crucial. It’s the standard grace period for new employees and the time during which first impressions are made. Therefore, it’s beneficial to have a plan that will show you can do the job and alleviate any concerns your potential employer may have. With a one-pager indicating what you will prioritize in the first 90 days, you’re making it easier for the hiring manager to envision you in the role.

To create a 90-day plan, you want to think about the position you’re interviewing for and what would need to be addressed going in. Here are a few questions to consider to help with your strategy.

What are the departmental goals and objectives?

Whether you already received this information during the interview process or not, it’s important to get a firm understanding of what the hiring manager and other members of the department identify as the departmental goals and objectives. Revisit conversations and strike up new ones to help you clarify what needs to be done. Be prepared to listen and observe to not only learn what is being said but also what is unsaid.

What are the position’s main priorities?

This question will help you connect the description of the job to the departmental objectives. How does your position help the department and/or business achieve its goals? Furthermore, based on what you are learning and observing, which of your priorities are the most important? Take the time to discover the answers to these questions then draft a plan that will show how you intend to approach these priorities in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of the job.

Who are the people I would need to meet with to help me reach my goals?

Work relationships are invaluable when it comes to your career. Get to know everyone in your department and what they work on. Not only is this good information to know generally but it will likely help you in your responsibilities. It’s also good to familiarize yourself with departments outside of yours and who the key people are in each area. This will help you connect the dots and see how your role relates to others within the larger organization.

What are the “quick fixes” and what requires more time?

In the early days of a new job, it’s beneficial to identify the “quick wins,” those tasks that can be completed easily in a short time frame and will visibly improve some part of the department or company. Avoid making hasty decisions by working with the necessary stakeholders to determine which projects can likely be addressed immediately versus those that need more time and planning.

How will I measure my progress?

As you work toward achieving your goals, what tools of measurement will inform you of your progress after 30, 60 and 90 days? It may be setting up weekly or biweekly meetings with your supervisor or utilizing performance metrics to track your progress along the way. Regardless, the idea is that you will want to establish a system to help you understand how you’re doing and whether any changes need to be made.

Conclusion

By addressing these questions in your 90-day plan, you will show the hiring manager that you’ve given serious thought to the role and have created a strategy accordingly. Your plan will also communicate that you’re able to hit the ground running and do what you’re getting paid to do in an efficient and effective way.

As a career coach for the job hunt, I have worked with many anxious job seekers on how to draft a 90-day plan that will propel them to first choice. I also offer mock interviews and guidance to help clients create a strategy that they feel confident communicating.

More of my tips on how to create a lasting impression during interviews can be found by subscribing to my blog.

Psst: Here is a sample that is detailed and here is one that offers more of a 10K foot view.