Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Career Engagement Blog Has Moved!

We are excited to announce that our Career Engagement blog has moved to www.career-engagement.lifestrategies.ca. Be sure to follow our new blog to stay current with all things related to career engagement, development, and success. Our archived blogs, with loads of great content, have also moved, along with all your comments.

Remember to also follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/LifeStrategies_) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Life.Strategies).

You may also be interested in our new blog focused on learning – www.learnonlineblog.lifestrategies.ca The content in this new blog will be great for all of our LearnOnline students as well as other busy professionals looking to fit learning into already busy lives.

Friday, July 25, 2014

View Your RFP as a Job Interview

I recently attended a training session focused on responding to the newly implemented Short-Form Requests for Proposals (SRFPs; 2-page short form for procurement of services used by the BC Government for selected projects).  During the session we had the opportunity to read a sample SRFP, collectively compose/submit a proposal, and review another submission.  It was a very insightful process, similar to mock interviews that career practitioners often recommend for clients. Playing the role of the reviewer really highlighted the importance of integrating key words, addressing requested information, and avoiding non-essential information.  I expand on each of these elements, below:

Integrating Key Words: Just as a job seeker would review a job posting for key terms (e.g., “self-starter”) for his/her resume or application, proposal writers should identify key terms in the RFP.  Look for clues throughout the proposal, ask questions for clarification, and refer to the funder’s website.  Address relevant industry terms; remember, if you’re responding to the RFP, you’re positioning yourself as the expert so you should know what else is essential (e.g., “cost-saving measures,” “stakeholder engagement”).  However, avoid simply copying and pasting; this can result in an awkward end-product that is hard to read.  Instead, strive for a careful and thoughtful integration of key terms into your own writing style.

Addressing Requested Information: First, ensure you can meet all mandatory minimum requirements stipulated.  If not, your proposal won’t even be reviewed.  Consider this: If a job advertisement requested a Bachelor’s Degree and you either didn’t have that, or forgot to mention it, it’s highly likely you will be screened out; your application never reviewed by a hiring manager.  Some requirements will be explicit, but others may be more cryptic.  Any time you read that something is preferred, or that preference will be given to those demonstrating something, take this as a clue that extra points will be given for those components.  If two – four examples are requested, write four.  Include your most relevant items.  If you aren’t sure about requirements, ask for clarification to ensure you are on the right track.

Avoiding Non-Essential Information. Proposal reviewers have a structured process for evaluation and are looking for very specific items.  If these items are not addressed, points cannot be awarded.  Stay focused in your response, strive for concise writing, and direct your energy towards areas that are evaluated.  For example, a corporate profile or executive summary may be requested but not evaluated.  Allocate your time based on importance; if it wasn’t requested or won’t be evaluated, it likely should not be your primary focus.  Lastly, ensure that page limits are adhered to as reviewers cannot review content past the page limit.

The reality is that some RFPs, just like job advertisements, may not be well written or thought through completely. It may be challenging to adequately address each component if the RFP is unclear or contradictory; however, a poorly written RFP does not excuse a poorly written proposal. It is your responsibility to submit a well written proposal that clearly addresses requests; ask questions if you are unclear.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Career Development Practitioner (CDP) Certification

One of the trends mentioned in my recent What’s Trending in Career Development article was a growing focus on certification.  Quebec, via l’Ordre , has had a formal credential/certification for many years. Alberta  launched certification in 2005; BC  quickly followed in 2010. New Brunswick will probably be the next Canadian province to put certification in place and I believe Ontario and Nova Scotia are also considering the benefits of certification.

None of this is a bad thing.  Generally, the goal of certification is to establish a minimum set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes (KSAs), outline educational requirements, and encourage continuous learning through continuing education units/credits. Many employers use the provincial credential as a minimum hiring standard and, in some cases, funders have considered making certification a requirement for various funded projects.

However, at a January meeting focused on CDP training needs, an interesting question emerged – Does certification result in more highly-skilled practitioners and, therefore, better service to clients? It was agreed that, as many employers are considering certification as a minimum (or at least preferred) hiring standard, there must be at least some anecdotal evidence. However, none of the meeting attendees were aware of any research or indication that certified CDPs were "better" than those who were not certified.

This question piqued my curiosity and I took the opportunity to connect with several colleagues during CANNEXUS 2014 to explore it further. Although I only spoke to a few people, the general consensus seemed to be that no one is tracking how, or if, certification impacts practice. At least one contact I spoke to mentioned there was no difference between staff who were certified and staff who were not.

On the surface, the answer to the question, “Does certification result in more highly-skilled practitioners and, therefore, better service to clients?” seems to be no but I think this warrants further investigation. I’d love to hear what readers think; feel free to add a comment in the space provided.

Of course, the other question may be whether or not the goal of certification is to improve practice and, if improved practice isn’t the goal, then what is?