Talent Development Centre

All posts by Dan Gasser

The Basics of Formatting a Resume in Microsoft Word

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

The last few months have featured a series of articles in the Talent Development Centre with feedback from Eagle’s recruitment team on what they like to see in a resume. One of the most common pieces of feedback they have for independent contractors lies in formatting and structure. To help you out, we’ve put together a series of videos with tips and tricks for using Microsoft Word to create a recruiter-friendly resume.

In this first video, I go over some of the basic formatting features Word offers.  Most you likely already know, but there may be a few new tricks in here that will help you next time you update your resume. If there are any extra features you’d like to learn about, let us know in the comments section below!

All About an Independent Contractor’s Business Cards

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

Do you have business cards? If not, you could be hurting your business. It may be something that’s been on your to-do list for a while, but you’ve been holding off because it’s a hassle, or maybe you don’t think it’s worth the time or the cost.  Let’s put that train of thought to rest and look at the Why, When, Where, What and How of business cards (the “Who” is pretty obvious).

Why should you have business cards?

  • It makes it easy to hand out your contact information
  • It shows that you’re serious and professional
  • It’s another tool to help differentiate you as an independent business in the eyes of the CRA
  • It’s a differentiator to both recruiters and clients
  • It’s a chance to get creative and complement your personal brand

When and where do you want to hand them out?

All the time and everywhere. Never leave home without at least a few cards and hand them out like candy in these situations:

  • Recruiter and client interviews
  • When you’re onsite with other contractors on your team
  • Networking and industry events
  • Tradeshows
  • Any time there’s the slightest chance of running into a potential client or referral

What should be included?

  • The obvious contact information: Business name, your name, title, phone number, Sample Business Cardmailing address and email address
  • Your fax number could be relevant, but it’s often unnecessary
  • Include your certifications, but only the relevant ones that really separate you.  Almost every professional today has a basic post-secondary education.
  • An online profile. That could be LinkedIn, or a professional website.  Check out this past post for more details about your online resume.
  • Branding.  Do you have a logo?  At the very least, what about a consistent colour scheme?  Check out Adobe Kuler help find your brand’s colours.
  • Keep it simple and remember to leave plenty of white space.  Nobody likes clutter.
  • Think about what you want on the back.  Some say you can get creative to make it fun memorable, while others will tell you to leave it blank and non-glossy so it’s easy to take notes.  That’s your choice.

How are you supposed to do all of that when you’re so busy?

  • Go to a local business supply store and find some business card template paper (for example Avery brand has many options and is available in most stores). You can find some pre-designed blank cards that will already match your brand. They usually come with Microsoft Word templates so you just type in your information, print at home, and you’re set!
  • If you’d like them printed more professionally, take a look at Staples Copy & Print or Vistaprint.  They have hundreds of templates that make it easy for you to design your card quickly.
  • Want to print your own design?  Staples and Vistaprint will do that too. They produce professional cards, but you’ll need to submit professional files. Avoid using a word processor like Microsoft Word to design them. Instead use Adobe tools like Illustrator or Photoshop if you’re familiar with them, try this simple business card creator from Canva, or get the help of a professional designer.  Sites like Freelancer, Upwork and maybe even Fiverr can provide some cost-effective options.

Do you have your own business cards?  How did you create them and how do you use them?  Share your tips and suggestions below!

Improve Your Online Presence with Your Online Resume

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

If you’ve managed your Eagle profile recently, you probably noticed the field titled “Link to Public Profile”.  The question is, are you taking advantage of it?

What is your public profile

The link to your public profile can lead to anywhere you keep your experience up-to-date.  Rather than providing a resume, you just provide us a link.  When a Recruiter wants your updated experience, they simply follow the link.  If other companies have this option, you can use the same link for them.  This means that you no longer need to make sure everybody has your most recent resume, you simply need to keep this one profile up to date.

Your LinkedIn Profile

You’re probably already on LinkedIn.  If not, we recently published some posts that will LinkedInhelp you get started. If you’ve keep your profile up-to-date, it will act as a perfect resume.  Your LinkedIn profile includes experience, project details, education, and references.   To view another person’s profile, generally you need to be connected with them.  But did you know your LinkedIn profile also has a public link you can share so anybody can see your experience?

To find the link, log into your LinkedIn account and go to your profile.  Below your profile picture and above the “Background” field, you’ll find your link.  If you’re in Canada, it probably starts with ca.linkedin.com/pub/your-name.  Note: if you start giving away this link, you may find more recruiters want to connect with you on LinkedIn!

Your Website

A recent post talked about how independent contractors can create a public website for their business, including experience, profiles and a blog.  Again, as long as you’re keeping this up-to-date, it’s a great resume.  It may even be better than a resume because it gives more insight into you, your technical abilities, and your creativity.  Be careful, though, if your website gets too personal, it may deter potential clients.

Shared Folders on the Cloud

There are many free services across the Internet where you can save files on a cloud server to keep them safe and secure.  For example, Dropbox and Google Drive are easy to set-up and come with a generous amount of storage at no charge.  From there, it’s easy to save files so you can work on them in another location or share them with other people.

When you save a file in Dropbox or Google Drive, you can set security settings and decide who can see your files.  One of those settings is to allow anybody to see the file as long as they have a link.  That means you can write your resume, save it to the cloud, and send that link off to Recruiters.  If you keep that file up-to-date and as long as they have that link, they’ll always have access to your up-to-date resume!

Online resumes and public profiles just may be the future of job searching and recruiting.  If you adopt early not only will you save time in resume management, you’ll also be perceived as an innovator in your field.  Would you agree?  Are there any other innovative ways you can share your resume with recruiters?  We’d love to hear them!

Improve Your Online Presence with a Website

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

If you’re looking to build an online presence and feel your social media profiles aren’t doing you justice, the next step for you may be a website and/or blog.  It can seem like a daunting (or expensive) task, though, especially if you’re already juggling multiple clients.  Here are a few tips to help you get your website started:

Map Out Your Idea

Before you start building or designing anything, brainstorm everything – big or small – that you want to put onto your website.  Once you have it all figured out, start organizing it into a proper site map. Here are some elements independent contractors may want to include on their website:

  • Experience: This could be a page that looks like your resume, or it may even be a link to download your resume.  This is also a great spot to include references, testimonials and samples of past work you’ve done.
  • Blog: Blogs are a great way to build a reputation as a thought-leader.  A blog entry doesn’t always need to be thought-provoking, but can be as simple as your opinions and reviews of new products and best practices in your industry.  If you do create a blog, remember to update it regularly.
  • Online Store: Some independent contractors have developed programs or published books.  You can use apps and services like PayPal to easily create and manage an online store.
  • Personal Side: You probably don’t want to publish pictures of what you did last weekend, but nothing says you can’t be human.  Have a page that shows your personal side so clients, recruiters and colleagues can get to know you better. 

Generate Content

Great, you know what your pages will be!  What’s going to go on them?  This is probably at symbolthe most difficult part of creating a website. When you write each page, remember the focus on that page and stick to it. In other words, avoid going all over the map with your content.  Focusing on specific topics also forces you to use the right keywords, which is crucial for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Create the Website

If you’re a web developer or you are already familiar with basic HTML, CSS and CMSs, then you already know what to do here.  If you’re not as familiar, or if you simply don’t have time, there are great services such as Weebly, Google Sites and WordPress that help you create websites for free and provide great templates to get you started.  These sites will also help you pick out a domain and host it, if that’s what you want to do.

Maintain Your Website

Now that your site is up and running, you’ve told people about it and the address is all over your applications and resumes, make sure you keep it up-to-date.  You’ve probably been to a stale website before – one that clearly hasn’t been updated in 3 years.  When a client visits this site, they immediately get a bad impression of you.  This includes your blog, if you decide to have one.

Websites aren’t just for large organizations but can be great for independent contractors who want more than a resume to give to prospective clients. They create a professional image and shows that you’re serious about your business.  Do you have a website?  Do you think you need one? Would you like more information on this topic?  Let us know in the comments below.

Improving Your Online Presence: The Hashtag

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

In the past couple months, we’ve covered tips on how you can raise your social media profile and get started on networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.  Now that you’re on them (or if you’re planning to get yourself onto them), let’s look at how to maximize your presence with hashtags.

Even if you’re on every form of social hashtagmedia, there’s a chance you’re still in the large group that wonders why people put a number sign in many of their posts.  In the social media world, that number sign is called a Hashtag.

Hashtags are used primarily on Twitter, but are also supported on many other social media networks including: Google+ and Facebook. (Side note: While hashtags are supported on Facebook, studies have shown that people are less likely to read your post on Facebook if it has a hashtag.)

This trend originated so that group topics could easily be grouped together and it would make it easier to have a discussion. For example, if you watch an award show, you’ll often see they have a hashtag associated with it, like #Grammys2014. In that example, anybody on social media could search out that hashtag to talk to people around the world, in real-time, about was happening at the Grammys.

Hashtags are now used beyond a specific conversation.  They have become a powerful search tool. For example, when we tweet this blog post, it will be visible to a limited group of people.  If, however, we add the hashtag #socialMedia to the end of the tweet, anybody interested in social media will be able to find it, simply by searching #socialMedia.

Hashtags will help increase your social media presence and will also help you increase your followers.  Experiment with them as you write your posts and see what works.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Try to use hashtags that are already in use.  To test them, simply search them out and see how many posts already have them.
  • If you use more than one word, remember to CapitalizeEachWord to make it easier to read.
  • #DontUseTooManyWordsInYourHashtagItWillBeTooHardToReadAndSearch
  • Limit your hashtags on each post.  One to three hashtags are effective, any more than that make your posts confusing.

We would love to hear your hashtag tips and success stories.  Leave us a comment!

Improve Your Online Presence: More on Social Networks

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

In a couple previous posts we’ve provided tips to get started on LinkedIn and even how to leverage the social platform to grow your network and find opportunities.   LinkedIn is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media.  According to a survey Eagle completed over the Winter of 2014, LinkedIn is the most used social network by independent contractors (94% say they’re already on it), with Facebook (79%), Google+ (39%), and Twitter (32%) being the next most popular.  So which social networks should you be using? More importantly, how can you use them to leverage your business?

Let’s take a deeper look at the three noted above.  There is no right or wrong in choosing the networks you wish to participate in, but whatever you decide, remember it should be all or nothing – either commit to managing your profile on a social network or drop it completely.

FacebookFacebook Logo

Facebook is the world’s largest and most popular social network.  It’s a great place to connect with friends, family, neighbours and people with the same general interests.  You can share your life stories, relationships, pictures and comments about your personal opinions. Since most people like to keep business and pleasure separate, it’s not always the place to connect with clients and colleagues.

That said, if you are on Facebook, you can still take some steps to enhance your professional image.  First, join a few groups related to your expertise.  Although people won’t be there for official business, you’ll still meet people with common interests and relationships may develop into more professional opportunities later.  You can also follow specific people or companies.  Different from actually becoming a friend, following people means their updates will show up in your newsfeed, but they can’t see your secure profile and you can’t see theirs.

Speaking of secure profiles, make sure your profile is secure.  Go to your privacy settings and make sure you’re comfortable with how they’re set.  Specifically, make it so only friends can see parts of your profile and status updates.  Whether you want them to or not, recruiters and clients are going to look for you on Facebook.  Ensure your profile picture is respectable (it doesn’t have to be professional, but you should also avoid a beer bottle in your hand), and ensure that anything available is acceptable.

Google+

Google+ is Google’s social network.  It has many different pieces and brings together Google’s many services, including Google Hangouts, Google Business, and YouTube (Note:  According to the survey referenced above, 39% of independent contractors also use YouTube).  Google+ is a post all on its own, so we will take a look at it in a future post.

To create a Google+ profile, you need to have a Google account.  At one point, this meant a Gmail address, but now, you can create a Google account with any email address.  If you’re already using a service like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Analytics, or YouTube, you already have a Google Account.

Once your Google+ profile is set-up, find people you already know and add them to “circles”.  Circles are a simply way to organize the people you’re following.  For example, if you connect with many recruiters on Google+, you could add them all to a circle called “Recruiters”.  When you click on that circle, you’d only see updates from your recruiters – it would be potentially a circle filled with new contract opportunities!

Google+ is also great for Hangouts, which is like your own personal chat room or user group.  Create a hangout and invite specific people to join, then schedule times for all of you meet and discuss certain items.  You can even use video hangouts to have a real-time face-to-face meeting as a group!

TwitterTwitter Logo

Among their many other features, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn all allow you to post status updates.  Twitter only allows you to post status updates.  A common misconception is that you can then only use Twitter to tell people what you had for breakfast and complain about your life.  The truth is, as long as you can write your post in 140 characters, you can share it – including articles!  Twitter is a great way to share content with people, whether you create it or find it on another site.

To get started with Twitter, once you’ve create your account, search for people/organizations to follow.  This can be as simple as searching people you know or typing an interest into the search bar.  For example, if you search “social media”, you will find people who tweet a lot about social media.  If you go to a website you visit frequently, you can also find their Twitter handle to get their most recent updates. (To get updates from the Talent Development Centre, follow us at @eagleTalent)

When you start with Twitter, don’t worry about tweeting anything immediately.  Just follow as many people as you can and get an understanding of how they use Twitter.  Eventually you’ll get a feel of how the Twitterverse works and how you want to take advantage of it.  From there start slowly, Tweeting your favourite articles and sharing your own insight and comments.  Don’t forget to retweet and engage with your followers and the people you’re following!

That’s our high-level look at the top social media platforms for independent contractors.  Does it answer any of your questions?  Is there anywhere you’d like to know more?  Ask and we shall deliver! Leave us your suggestions in the comments below.

Improve Your Online Presence: LinkedIn In-Depth

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

In a previous post we looked at the basic steps to get your LinkedIn profile set-up.  For most independent contractors, your profile is already set-up.  The question that remains is “Now what?”  Once you have a great profile on LinkedIn and you’re growing your network, how can you really take advantage of this social network?  Here are some ideas:

Update Your Profile… and keep it updated!

An up-to-date profile is key to an independent contractor because this is where potential clients are going to look – possibly even more than your resume.

When you edit your LinkedIn Profile, you have the option to include Experience and Projects.  What’s the difference? We recommend you use “Experience” as a quick view of your employers and projects for specific client projects.  For example, if you’ve been independent for the past 10 years under the name “Company Inc.”, your experience would show “Company Inc. – July 2004 to Present” with an overview of the skills and work you do.   Under “Projects”, you would then include all of the clients you worked with over the past 10 years while working for Company Inc.

Every time you finish a project (or better yet start one), include it in your profile.  You don’t need a ton of detail to start.  As the project progresses, include project value, scope, deliverables, critical success factors, etc.

Give and Receive Recommendations

Happy man at a computerRecommendations are the perfect way to boost your image on LinkedIn.  Whether it’s an endorsement for a specific skill or a detailed reference for your work, recruiters like to see that you’re respected by your peers.  They’re better than a reference or testimonial on a resume because they actually link back to the recommender’s profile, making it that much more credible.

As you add more details to you profile about the work you’ve done, LinkedIn will recognize this and actually prompt your peers to endorse your work.  It will also encourage past colleagues to recommend you.

What’s the easiest way to get a recommendation? Recommend others!  It’s not that your colleagues hate you, it’s that they’re also busy and don’t think about endorsing you on LinkedIn.  Take a minute to endorse one of their skills or even write a reference.  Odds are, they’ll reciprocate! (Note:  Only recommend somebody who deserves it.  Your recommendation may help somebody land their next contract, and you don’t want to damage your own reputation because you lied about a colleague’s ability).

You can also solicit recommendations by simply asking for one.  If it’s been a while since you spoke to the person you’re asking, provide some guidance on what to write.  The easier you make it for them, the higher the probability that they will recommend you.

Share More Content

Sharing content on LinkedIn helps you get noticed, builds your credibility, and enhances relationships with people in your network.  This doesn’t mean you have to constantly write thought-provoking articles.  Sure one or two would help, but even easier is to find interesting articles and share them.  Sources like Inc.com or Business Insider are great starting points, and you can also look at industry sites specific to your work.  When you share an article, comment on it.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?  What’s your favourite part about it?

Find Opportunities

When you keep an updated profile, get recommendations, and share content, you’re already increasing your chances of being sought out on LinkedIn by recruiters and clients.  If you’re not pulling them in fast enough, though, you may need to seek out opportunities on your own.

Check out the Jobs link at the top of your LinkedIn page.  This leads to a LinkedIn job board where companies have purchased job postings.  You can create a detailed filter for this search which will help you find advertised opportunities.

Some clients and agencies don’t pay for postings.  The opportunities are often still on LinkedIn, but you have to dig a little deeper.  Here are a few tips to find the hidden opportunities:

  • Connect with Recruiters on LinkedIn:  If you have relationships with recruiters already, make sure you’re connected with them.  If you don’t have any solid contacts, don’t worry.  Search out your 5 favourite staffing agencies on LinkedIn and view their employees.  Scan for a few recruiters in your area and connect with them.    Now monitor your newsfeed.  The great recruiters will always post new opportunities as they come up.
  • Monitor Groups: Search for groups with opportunities in your area that are related to what you do.  For example, Eagle has a group specifically for Montreal opportunities in IT.  Join these groups, participate in them and frequently monitor them.
  • Follow Companies:  Do you have a specific client you’ve worked with and you’d like to work with them again?  Find that company’s LinkedIn page (just use the search menu at the top) and “Follow” the company.  While it’s not a sure-thing, savvy companies use their LinkedIn page to post opportunities and updates.  At the very least, your newsfeed will show up with great conversation pieces which are useful when you are meeting with a client contact.

LinkedIn is by far the #1 place for professionals to hangout, network and even find new opportunities.  As an independent contractor, it’s critical that you have a strong presence across the network.  How do you feel about your profile?  Could it use some work?  Do you get any value out of it or do you find it’s a waste of time?  We’d love to hear your opinion!

Improve Your Online Presence: Get Set-Up on LinkedIn

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

Social media has exploded over the past 10 years and has grown enormously around the world.  Today, it’s a key tool in business and an online presence is a must-have for independent contractors in all industries.  Not only is it a great way to expand and maintain your professional network, ultimately helping you find more opportunities, but many companies are reviewing the profiles of potential contractors online to gauge their experience and seek out references.Building an online network starting with LinkedIn

If you’re among the many independent contractors who fell behind when social media exploded, you may feel that catching up is close to impossible. This train of thought is causing a major disadvantage for your business. The truth is, getting started on social media and improving your online presence isn’t such a daunting task.  There is a slight time investment up front, but once you have momentum, maintaining and growing that presence will easily fit into your regular schedule.

There are literally thousands of social media platforms across the internet, so a common question is “Where do I get started?” Avoid starting everywhere.  It’s better to have one fantastic profile than 5 badly maintained profiles.  For independent contractors that first profile should be on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is an online network where professionals connect with and communicate with colleagues, business partners, and even friends.  Unlike some social networks like Facebook where people share details of their personal lives, LinkedIn is a place to share your professional knowledge and experiences.  This is a great spot to find new opportunities, share knowledge with experts around the world, and even find potential contracting partners.  Here are a few simple steps to get started:

  1. Create an account

Visit www.linkedin.com and fill in the form on the home page – registration is free and LinkedIntakes less than 2 minutes.  Use the full name you would use professionally – if your friends call you Bob, but you print Robert on your business card, use Robert on LinkedIn.  Ensure the email address you provide is permanent.

  1. Go through the basic set-up steps

Once you hit the Next button, LinkedIn will ask you a few simple questions to finish setting up your profile, including your company name and title, and ask you to confirm your email address. (Note:  When you confirm your email address, LinkedIn will ask your permission to access certain contacts.  You are required to say “Yes” to continue but don’t worry – it will not actually do anything with your contacts unless you ask it to in the next steps).

Now that LinkedIn has access to your address book, it will help you connect with your contacts.  You can decide if you’d like to do it now, or simply hit the “Skip this Step” button and do it later.  (We recommend you do this later, after you have your profile set-up exactly how you want it). You will also be asked if you would like to upgrade to the paid version – hold off on this until you have a better grasp on the network to determine if you really need it.

  1. Edit Your Profile

Many independent contractors treat their LinkedIn profile like their resume.  It may even help to have your resume beside you as you set this up.  LinkedIn will help you by asking questions about specific experience, education, and skills.  You will also create a profile summary about yourself, add a picture, and include any extracurricular activities.  As you go through, be as detailed as possible, but don’t stress too much.  You can always go back and edit this as necessary.  Your priorities for now should be a profile summary, your current work, and a profile photo. (Note: Keep the photo professional.  Potential clients don’t want to see you and your friends in a Las Vegas casino)

  1. Start making connections and grow your network

If you didn’t do it while you set-up your account, now’s the time.   Go to the “Connections” link in the top menu, and click “Add Connections”.  Here, LinkedIn will ask to scan through some of your email contacts to find people already on LinkedIn.   You can also click the “Find Alumni” button to seek people who went to the same school as you, use the “People You May Know” link to get suggestions from LinkedIn, or simply use the search menu at the top of your screen to seek specific individuals.  Once you’ve started, it will be easy to connect with more people.  You can search specific companies and look at their employees or you can search your contacts’ connections to find mutual acquaintances.

  1. Join Groups

LinkedIn Groups are a place where people with a common interest gather to share knowledge with each other.  This can be extremely valuable whether you’re looking for new opportunities, or working on a project and need some input.  There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn for virtually any topic.  Search for and join a few that are for you.  It could be a group about a specific technology, an industry association, a region where you work, or an alumni for a company or institution.

  1. Browse your news feed

Now that you have connections and you’re a part of groups, you will have a valuable newsfeed.  Click the “Home” button at the top and you’ll find it.  As you scroll through, you’ll see updates from your connections and your groups.  These may include statuses, links to articles, details of their activity (new connections, comments they’ve made), and some questions they may be asking their own network.

  1. Engage

This is where the value of social networking begins!  As you scroll through your newsfeed, engage with your network.  Click the “Like” button on content you agree with, add a comment to give your own insight, and share posts with your own network.

You can also start adding your own content.  When you come across an article you like, share it by putting the link into the “Share an Update” bar at the top of your newsfeed.  You should also add your own comment to make it more personal.

Engage in groups as well.  Share relevant articles with your group, join conversations to answer questions, or ask your own questions.

These 7 simple steps will get you on your way.  Once you’re more familiar with the platform, you can start taking on other tasks like job searching, giving and receiving recommendations, and becoming a LinkedIn influencer. Remember that order to benefit from any social network you need to have an active presence and contribute.

What challenges have you faced in getting your social media presence going?  Please share your comments below.