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Pinterest: A new job search tool?

February 3, 2012

Aside from the Facebook IPO , Pinterest has been the “hot” social media topic this week.  I attended two Twitter chats on Pinterest and have been followed by 44 people this week alone (though I fear they will be disappointed by my nearly empty pin boards).  Everywhere I look, people are tweeting and Facebooking their pins, but it’s more than just the newest social media addiction – it’s becoming big business.  Mashable  announced that Pinterest has broken into the top 5 website traffic drivers for certain retailers.

I followed the masses and joined, but I have to admit I struggled to get into it.  My utilitarian nature outweighs my aesthetic appreciation by quite a bit, so pinning pretty pink cupcakes just doesn’t appeal to me (not that there’s anything wrong with pretty cupcakes).

Then I saw Pinterest being used in a more utilitarian way – by a job seeker!  This was my A-HA moment!

Aspiring Social Media Strategist

Anne Reuss, my Featured Friday job seeker this week, is using Pinterest to tell her personal story of how social media gives her a new way of connecting with hearing people.  Anne graduated from the University of Illinois as an English major in May, and aside from entering the work force at a time of high unemployment, she has the additional hurdle of being a Deaf person looking for a job in a hearing dominant world that doesn’t understand her abilities.  I asked Anne a few questions about her career goals and job search:

What attracts you to social media as a career?

“I actually stumbled upon it. I graduated in May 2011 confident that I would find a job with a strong background that not only revealed I was studious but also a change maker. But . . . I was not finding jobs, and interviewers seemed to never contact me again after they realized I was Deaf.  Through networking, I found contract work as a social media strategist temporarily…but discovered it was a stellar match! . . . I have always been confident and outgoing – but participating in social media opened up doors to new, and MORE, forms of communication . . .  While I do have fairly strong lip reading and verbal skills, it’s like I have a foreign accent to some people. For example, at a large party with new attendees, I would feel forced to hold back from a group conversation or jump in – because I don’t want to make it awkward – but on the web I can do that and really express my naturally engaging personality.  Now, I am using social media to give people a “preview,” to educate, and make them feel comfortable with the idea of what it’d be like to be with me online – and in person. I aspire to continue find innovative communication strategies to benefit myself as a Deaf person, AND others.”  

While most users are pinning wedding dresses and craft ideas, what inspired you to use Pinterest as part of your job search strategy?

“I’ve only been in social media for four months, and I saw an opportunity to showcase my creativity – which is an act itself to enrich my resume! One Saturday night, I was out with a couple friends ready to break down in tears because I wasn’t sure how to continue my job search and one of them put it very bluntly – it likely had to do with the fact I was Deaf. Call me slightly naïve, but ignorance still exists.   I could use an entertaining – and also more importantly, an intimate way – to connect with my social network (and beyond hopefully) and help them understand there’s nothing to fear! Once prospective clients and employer recognize that, they can completely embrace my abilities.”

What misconceptions do employers need to let go of to truly welcome Deaf candidates and employees? What do you wish they understood?  

“We are capable of functioning in a hearing dominant society.  We merely have our own culture, and language that makes us somewhat foreigners in some eyes, but isn’t America the land of opportunity?  Employers have not honestly disclosed what holds them back, but I sense it’s fear of cost (which by the way – it is not very expensive to accommodate a Deaf employee with video relay Interpreting which is paid in minutes, technology collaboration that makes for easier note taking, for examples), and also comfort, but as any wise business person knows, playing safe isn’t always the winning option!”

Anything else you’d like to share?

“Being Deaf is only a component of myself, my zest and resilience is at my core. Communication goes beyond hearing and speaking English, and being Deaf is not detrimental in the wide world of web and work.  I think the ability to establish rapport and relationship in any business is vital.”

Below is a vlog of Anne’s about her Pinterest strategy.

How do you think other job seekers could use Pinterest effectively?

“I would recommend sharing stories about a vital impact you’ve made on your team, business, or even school clubs. If you’ve had more than one internship or job, you should create separate boards that showcase the type of work you’ve done but be sure to find visually attractive images- and unique ones. For instance, I show people how I communicate with the world – including technology, but I also have an intense black and white picture of a man framing his eyes = eye contact.  As I do with social media, I post current trends to show I am “happenin” with my industry.  Don’t be afraid to post your dreams too – employers like to see motivation! Oh, and pins are like SEO candy – do include pins that could lead back to your e portfolios, virtual resume, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.

I think Anne’s advice for job seekers who would like to use Pinterest as part of their search strategy is excellent!   I would add that you should consider the message all your pin boards will send employers.  If you have one board related to your career next to one titled “Eye Candy,” with pins of scantily clad women (or men), you may accidentally be sending a “don’t hire me” message.  Even if you don’t plan to use Pinterest in your search, remember Anne’s comment about pins being like SEO candy.  Prospective employers who Google you will see them anyway, so keep it clean.

Are YOU  interested in being  featured on one of my Featured Fridays?  It’s easy – just stop by my Facebook page on any given Monday and introduce yourself.  Mondays are Open Mic days, and each week I’ll ask a different job seeker question.   I’ll choose one of the participants who answered to feature that Friday.  It’s that easy!

INFOGRAPHIC Resume – Fad or Fabulous?

January 27, 2012

Karen Loomis, Brand Champion

Today I started something new on my Facebook page called Featured Friday.  Each Friday, I will feature a new job seeker’s job-search journey (say that 10 times fast).  My first featured guest, Karen Loomis, has done some pretty creative things to get noticed in this challenging employment climate:

  • Several months ago, she created a custom website that showcases some of the marketing campaigns she has run in her 12 years as a Creative Director.  She smartly purchased her own domain name kloomis.net to add a level of professionalism to the site.
  • She is an active participant on Twitter (@KLLoomis11), and LinkedIn where she connects with recruiters and career marketing professionals.
  • She has gotten several leads and interviews, even once followed up with a Thank You  gift of a book that came up in conversation during the interview.

Despite these creative tactics, she still hasn’t landed her dream job, so she decided to step it up a notch.  Her newest strategy is to use an Infographic Resume.  With the popularity of Infographics these days, it is a creative tactic that more and more job seekers are using.  I asked Karen a few questions about her decision to use one:

What inspired you to create an Infographic resume?

“I’ve been actively searching for employment for the last 11 months. I’ve been doing (what I believe) to be all the recommended things; networking, LinkedIn connections to find people within companies or hiring managers. I kept thinking about my 10 years as an in-house Creative Director in a $1.5 billion company realizing how much I hated to get unsolicited resumes or other emails due to my extreme workload (and always being over my email limit). I realized that as a visual person an INFOGRAPHIC might be the way to get attention-  especially if I had sent emails before with no response.  In my case, as a creative, I think INFOGRAPHICs also show my personality, design & creative skills more so than text only. “

How do you plan to use it?

“I plan to put a link on my website along with my traditional resume, send Twitter messages to my followers or to select folks in companies I’m interested in. I’ll also have a printed poster version that I’ll either mail in a tube or drop by local companies to the attention of hiring managers. I may even use a postcard smaller version & revise my networking business card to have similar look.”

What kind of technology / skills would a job seeker need to make their own?

“I’m a trained graphic designer with 12 years experience communicating through visual concepts. I used traditional design software Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator & Photoshop). I wouldn’t recommend non designers go this route, but there are some good websites out there that can help with the visual aspect.  You shouldn’t use everything on your resume…choose your strongest statements.” 

Will you still use your traditional resume?

“Absolutely…ATS [Applicant Tracking Systems] will not understand graphics, and you’ll notice I only selected 5-6 accomplishments that support my desired job & elevator pitch. “

Anything else you’d like to share?

“I’m looking forward to trying out this INFOGRAPHIC and hope it helps get me my desired job very soon. Welcome feedback and especially job offers in the Phoenix, Az area!”

My professional resume writer’s opinion is that this is a GREAT strategy for Karen, but it’s not for everyone.  I think it’ll work for her because she is in a creative career and the document itself is a work sample that proves her skills in:

  • Creative graphic design
  • Defining a brand’s value proposition
  • Conceptualizing a visual presentation of a brand’s value
  • Identifying performance indicators that are relevant to the target audience

However, not everyone is in a creative career, or has the skills and technology to create a high quality custom Infographic resume like this one.  There are free websites that will import your LinkedIn data and create one for you (see my links below).  The key for all of these sites is to have a clear brand statement for the summary,  quantified accomplishments, and recommendations that you can use to tell your story.  While these free sites are fine, keep in mind that everyone using them will have a similar look, so some of the unique WOW factor of a custom Infographic is lost.  You also have less freedom to print them and distribute them at-will, as they are designed for viewing on their website.  Here are three such services:

Visualize.me  – This site features a summary, career and education timelines with hover-over job descriptions, years of experience in specialty areas that you can customize, and a full import of your LinkedIn recommendations.

Re.vu – This site allows you to select only the recommendations you want to include (via copy + paste), rather than all or nothing like Visualize.me.  It also has an option to display visual percentages instead of just whole numbers, a breakdown of job duties, and (my favorite) add a portfolio and work samples.

Kinzaa.com – Not as “pretty” as some of the others, with less color, fewer graphs, virtually no way to communicate previous quantified results in a visual way (which kind of defeats the purpose of an Infographic, doesn’t it?).  Some features this site offers that the others do not are: ability to upload a video, share information about your personality, company culture preferences, and desired benefits and perqs at a company.

Keep in mind that even if you are successful in getting noticed with one of these new technologies, many companies will still ask you for a traditional resume for HR to “get you in the system,” so have it ready to go before you promote these non-traditional resumes.

Are YOU  interested in being  featured on one of my Featured Fridays?  It’s easy – just stop by my Facebook page on any given Monday and introduce yourself.  Mondays are Open Mic days, and each week I’ll ask a different job seeker question.   I’ll choose one of the participants who answered to feature that Friday.  It’s that easy!

Virtual Job Fair Recap

January 26, 2012

Virtual Job FairOn January 16, 2012 I co-hosted my first Virtual Job Fair with  Karla Campos of Gig Logo – A Guest Blogging Community.

What is a Virtual Job Fair?  I like to think of it as an online job search clinic – a place for job seekers and recruiters to come together to network, learn from each other, post jobs or source candidates. Karla and I had a 12 hour day of almost constant engagement with participants on Facebook and Twitter (with the hashtag #JobClinic)

Here are some of the highlights of the day:

ATTENDANCE: 67 people RSVP’d for the event.

QUESTIONS: 20 inquiries relating to a variety of job search topics, including panel interviews, working with agencies, resume writing, non-traditional resumes and more.

JOB POSTINGS: 20 links to individual job postings or company careers pages.

CONNECTIONS: 17 participants shared their elevator pitch and online networking information.

GUEST PRESENTERS: 1, Isela Talamantes from Green Talent Staffing  shared the outlook for green careers and discussed the best ways to work with staffing agencies.

Following is one of the questions that came up during the day:

Question posted  By Mark Van Baale, Manager of the Kansas City Job Seekers Blog :

Q) What are some suggestions/advice on how to prepare for interviews with a panel or group of people?

ANSWERS:

By Karleen Harp, Co-host:

First, do some research on the company. Search LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who work there and ask them what to expect. Glassdoor.com is another place where job seekers can see notes of interview experiences of candidates who have interviewed there, including some of the questions they were asked.

Panel interviews are useful for both the candidate and the company. It saves time, and it ensures that everyone involved in the hiring decision has been exposed to the same candidate experience. A series of 1:1 interviews can result in one home run interview, followed by a strike-out. This can be a reflection of the interviewer’s skills, not the candidate’s, but the effect can be detrimental to the candidate.

Calming nerves is something that requires practice. I recommend that candidates practice answers to common questions in advance. Video yourself and playback until you can deliver the answers smoothly. Joining Toastmasters can also help improve confidence in front of a group, which will help with panel interviews.

PARTICIPANT ANSWERS:

By James Thompson, guest:

Take the time to think through tough questions and come up with good answers to them beforefoing into the panel. Obviously knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and goals is a good first step.

By Karen Loomis, guest:

I’ve found it useful to get the individuals names who will be involved & then research them. Find out what makes them tick. That way they seem like everyday people vs. an interrogator. I love finding common ground.

If you couldn’t make it that day, but are wondering what you missed, you can still review the event timeline and full Q&A directly on the event page wall at: Virtual Job Fair

Invitation to Virtual Job Fair Jan 16

January 12, 2012
Virtual Job Fair


What is a Virtual Job Fair?
 I like to think of it as an online job search clinic – a place for job seekers and recruiters to come together to network, learn from each other, post jobs or source candidates.

It’s kind of like a Twitter chat that lasts all day and is on Facebook instead!

The event is taking place on January 16, 2012 from 8 AM to 8 PM EST (5-5 PST) It’s a completely FREE event hosted by ResumeSmith and Karla Campos of Gig Logo – A Guest Blogging Community.

Why should you attend?

JOB SEEKERS: Get together with other job seekers, collaborate about job search strategy, get some free  job search tips, and ask a Recruiter about how to work with staffing agencies.  Maybe even get some job leads, or new connections that could lead to leads.

EMPLOYERS: Promote your employer brand, post your  jobs, connect with candidates, and participate in some corporate social philanthropy.

CAREERS PROFESSIONALS: You are invited to stop in and share your expertise on job search strategy, resume writing, cover letters, the application process, and interview tips.  If you would like to be a featured expert, please comment below or on the event wall and Karla or I will be in touch with you.

How to Attend:

On the date of the event, return to the event page and participate in the conversation on the event wall.

You may post:

  • Job postings
  • Questions and answers about job postings
  • Questions and answers about resumes
  • Questions and answers about the application and selection processes
  • Questions and answers about job search strategy
  • Interview questions
  • Postings about job positions you seek
  • Location where you seek employment

You may NOT post:

  • Personal information like address and phone numbers, as the event is visible to the public.  Job seekers should respond to job postings through the company’s regular application process.
  • Sales, spam or other commercial information.  The event organizers will remove commercial content that has no value for the participants.

If you have any questions or concerns you may post them directly on the event page wall at: Virtual Job Fair

10 Tips for an Interview Winning Resume

January 12, 2012

The following list is intended to provide general guidelines to help you make your résumé more competitive.  It is not an exhaustive list, but merely some of the most common areas that do-it-yourself resume writers often overlook.

1.       First Impression – Design and Aesthetics

Do:  Design it to look like the marketing document that is.  Use tasteful color and industry appropriate graphic design.  Ensure clean, uncluttered, unique design with proper use of white space.

Don’t: Use a Microsoft Word template.  It looks exactly like thousands of other resumes and shows lack of individuality.

2.       Format and Presentation of Content

Do: Ensure value proposition is easily noticed in a 10 second visual scan.  Strategically minimize problem areas.  Limit the length to no more than 2 pages.

Don’t: Draw attention to problem areas by trying to explain them away.

3.       Focus on a Specific Position

Do: Target your resume to a particular position and industry.  Choose keywords and skills that are specific to the target role.

Don’t: Try to use a “jack-of-all-trades” resume that attempts to target multiple positions (customer service, administrative, and human resources all at once).  These rarely get results.

 4.       Personal Branding

Do: Clearly communicate what you offer that is uniquely you, and support this claim with endorsements and track record specifics.

Don’t: Use a resume that is so generic that it could be used by anyone in that career by just changing names and employment dates.

 5.       Value Proposition

Do: Include a high-impact Professional Profile that summarizes value to employer and communicates your target position.  List specifics like years of experience in field, special certifications and key technical qualifications.

Don’t: Use a cliché “Objective” statement that addresses your needs, not the employer’s.

 6.       Accomplishments

Do: Ensure results achieved are listed as bulleted action statements that quantify business impact of results.  Older Accomplishments can be listed in a separate section at the top so they are noticed quickly.

Don’t: Fail to list any accomplishments at all, bury the best ones on page two, or fail to quantify the results.

 7.       Experience

Do: Include a brief description of company, “snapshot” of accountabilities, short job description, and key contributions.  List experience in reverse chronological order.

Don’t: Include work experience that is irrelevant to target position, or that is more than 15 years old (unless that’s the only experience relevant to your target job).

8.       Education

Do: Include only degrees earned, GPA if higher than 3.0, and major if relevant.  Current enrollments may be listed with “candidate” and anticipated graduation date.

Don’t: Draw attention to lack of degree by including high school, or “selected college coursework.”  Use professional development section instead (if applicable), or just leave education off altogether.

 9.       Professional Associations

Do: Describe active involvement in groups related to the company’s industry or your profession.  Board membership and conference speaking engagements show a level of thought leadership and volunteerism that is valuable.

Don’t: Include membership in irrelevant groups that draw attention to political, religious, or other protected affiliations that are irrelevant to target job.

10.   Proofreading

Do: Ensure your resume is 100% free of grammar, spelling and typing errors, and formatting inconsistencies.

Don’t: Neglect to have a second pair of eyes review it.  There are things that a word processor’s spelling and grammar checker will miss, such as misuse of words.  Ask an educated friend, colleague, or professional resume writer to review it.

What about you?  

How does your resume hold up to these standards?

Are there any points here you’ve never heard before?

The Job Search Secret Ingredient: BLOG

January 9, 2012

Most job seekers who have been on the hunt for any length of time will tell you that looking for a job IS a full-time job.  Networking, social media activity, applying for jobs, and eventually  interviewing, all take time.  With all this time spent looking, some still neglect one important job-search activity that has the potential for a great ROI: BLOG.

I’ve developed an acronym for BLOG to help describe why this is so important:

B =Branding

Branding is one of the most important elements of any marketing strategy.  The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”  As a job seeker, YOU are the product that you are selling, and it is important to differentiate yourself from other candidates applying for similar jobs.  A blog can be used as an extension of the resume.  Rather than being confined to 1-2 pages, you can add a portfolio of work, including pictures and a project list.  Be sure that your blog is targeted to your career focus and update it regularly to show you are motivated and consistent.  Your readers should be able to tell what sets you apart – are you a bold, cutting-edge risk taker?  Or a collaborative team builder?

L = Leadership

Blogging is a great way to establish your thought leadership and build credibility in your field.  You can showcase your ideas, put them into the proper context, and share them with others.  Business owners have figured this out, and some progressive job seekers have too.  Each post gives you a forum to display your  knowledge of your field, share anecdotes about your career accomplishments, and truly distinguish yourself from other candidates.  Some keys to remember for job seekers are to respect the intellectual property and trade secrets of your employers, and stay positive.  Otherwise, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb if you have an unusual or controversial opinion on something – it could be the difference that shows you are a leader, not a follower.

O = Opportunity

Opportunity does not come to those who wait.  Passively expecting something to just fall in your lap is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket.  If you are a job seeker, you have to be active in your marketing.  You can attract opportunities to you by networking and getting yourself found online.  This must  include more than uploading your resume to a job board and updating your LinkedIn profile.  A search-engine-optimized blog can get you found in searches related to your career field, and it gives you relevant content to promote on your other social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

G = Greatness

According to a recent Cross-Tab research study, Online Reputation in a Connected World89 percent of hiring managers and recruiters review online data on candidates.  So, when a recruiter or hiring manager Googles you, what do you want them to see?  A half-complete LinkedIn profile or personal Facebook profile?  Or an impressive showcase of your knowledge, skills and accomplishments that motivates them to pick up the phone and schedule an interview?  A blog could make the difference between appearing as a mediocre candidate and one who offers greatness.

Some final thoughts:

A blog costs virtually nothing to set up.  Free accounts are available at WordPressBloggerTumblr,  Weebly, and many others.  For less than $25 per year, you can even get your own domain name (I recommend something simple like your first and last name).  The primary investment is time.

Many bloggers successfully monetize the blog with advertisements.  This could be a way to supplement your income during your job search.

Be careful to remember that everything you do online is a reflection on your personal brand.  If you do choose to blog, follow the rule of thumb that if you wouldn’t say it in a job interview, you shouldn’t say it online.

COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS – What Do They Really Mean?

December 16, 2011

I was recently asked to prepare a list of common interview questions for a group of women involved in a nonprofit leadership program, so I decided to share them on my blog as well.    While they may seem cliché, the fact is that recruiters and employment interviewers use them all the time.  It’s also the case that sometimes some of the questions are not as transparent as they seem.  It is important to understand what they really mean, so you can respond appropriately.

Tell me about yourself.

What it means: This is one of the most common open-ended questions.  Remember that the interviewer is not asking about your personal life, they are asking about your professional persona, and fishing for information that will help them determine your fit.

Answer: This is your cue to deliver your elevator pitch.  Keep it short and sweet.  Make sure you are addressing the value you offer that will make you successful in the job.

Start with your first job (or the one listed farthest back on your resume or employment application) and explain the reasons for leaving each job.

What it means: The interviewer is looking for patterns, such as terminations, leaving without notice, or quitting after a short time period.  She wants to see a stable, reliable person who will show up, do the job, and not be a problem child.

Answer: Be honest, but frame it properly.  If you were fired for attendance problems, don’t volunteer that you were terminated, just state that you had a temporary problem that conflicted with your work schedule or transportation, which is now resolved.  Give specific examples of why you are now a “reliable” candidate, even offering references to counter any blemishes on your record.

Explain your employment gaps, including what you have been doing the past (time period) you’ve been unemployed.

What it means: They want to know that you are committed to being in the workforce, and that you are not hiding a bad reference (or something worse) with an apparent employment gap.

Answer: While vague, nonspecific answers are usually taboo during an interview, you also are not required to share extremely personal information.  “Acceptable” reasons for women are usually related to caring for family (children or parents), or returning to school.  Since 2008, many Americans have become “long-term unemployed,” so stating that you have been seeking work during this time, while volunteering or working on personal development, is not as hard to overcome for a job seeker as it was when unemployment was low.  If you are long-term unemployed, be prepared to describe how you have kept your job-related skills up to date during this time.

Why have you applied for this particular job?

What it means: The interviewer wants to know that you are focused on this job, at this company not “any job at any company.” While it may seem otherwise, they are not asking about what you want.  The underlying question is “Have you taken the time to research us, and do you know enough about the job and company to describe what makes you a great fit?” 

Answer: Describe your most relevant skills for the job, as well as personal attributes that will make you a good fit.  For example, if you are an Accountant applying at a SCUBA company, after you describe your accounting skills, it would be a great idea to add that you have been a certified diver for 10 years and use their products regularly (as long as it’s true, of course).

What are your strengths?

What it means: Almost all interviewers ask this.  They are looking for job specific strengths (your golf handicap is only relevant if you are applying for a position as a Golf Pro).

Answer: This is where you have to sell it, don’t just tell it.  List three or four skills, such as your ability to learn quickly, strong communication with customers, and some job-related technical skills.  But don’t stop there – give specific examples that back up your assertions.  For example, “on my last performance review, my Supervisor commented that my communication skills contributed to the highest account retention rate our group has experienced in 5 years” adds much more credibility to your claim than “I think I’m a great communicator.”

 What is your greatest weakness?

What it means: Everyone has weaknesses.  The interviewer is checking your self-awareness, as well as that your professed weaknesses are ones that will not be a hindrance for this particular job.

Answer: Do not say you can’t think of any right now – this is clear evasion and untrue. My favorite strategy is to share something completely unnecessary for the job. For example, if you are applying for an exclusively post-sales client services position, you could mention that in your last job you struggled with closing the sale since you were more focused on building a relationship with the prospect.  Since closing sales won’t be a job requirement (and relationship building will be), it’s a safe admission, and it subtly works in a strength that is relevant.

 What has been your favorite job, and why?

What it means: A variation on the strength / weakness questions, this question is really to find out if you are a cultural fit with the company, as well as a skills fit for the job.

Answer: This may seem like an easy question, but it’s tricky.  It is important to make sure that your “likes” correspond to the skills or environment of the job you are interviewing for.  If you like dealing with people, but you are applying for an isolated mail-room position, find something else to like for this answer (and maybe re-think the jobs you apply for).

What was your worst job and why?

What it means: This is the flip-side of the “best job” question, and it is also to fish for indications that you are (or aren’t) a  fit with the company and position.

Answer: Be cautious with this answer. “My boss was a micromanager” is a no-go, even if it is the truth (after all, the hiring manager may be a micromanager, too).  One approach is to choose a characteristic of the company (that doesn’t match the company you are interviewing with).  Examples could be the company size or the fact that your boss was located across the country.  Make the point that you realize every company has its own dysfunctional attributes, but that you don’t let it bother you too much.

Have you encountered these common interview questions? 

If so, have you ever considered the hidden meanings before? 

Will this change the way you respond in the future?

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