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Q & A with Best Selling Author Frances Cole Jones


Frances Cole Jones is the author of Wow Your Way Into the Job of Your Dreams and How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation. Time Magazine said, "Jones' shrewd book will give the nervously employed that requisite competitive edge." Her blog was voted one of the top 100 websites for women by Forbes.com. Frances appears frequently on ABC and Fox News, is a body language expert for The Insider, a business etiquette expert for Demand Media's eHow video series, and a job interview expert for About.com.

What was the path that lead you to gaining your expertise? Would you have done anything differently? 

The path I took was circuitous: I worked as a teacher during the day while I went to graduate school in the evenings. I worked as a freelance editor, editing manuscripts at night and on the weekends while I interned at communications companies during the day. 

No, I wouldn't have done anything differently: hard work doesn't kill you, and I had the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of people who were able to help me when I was ready. 

What aspect of your career brings you the most joy? Most challenging?

I like the fact that every day/every client is different and I relish the chance to set my own schedule. That said, the most challenging thing about owning your own business is that you are never off duty. When I started my company I went five years without a vacation: that was a long five years. 

Have you had a mentor(s)? If so how did you find your mentor? Do you believe it is important to your career to have a mentor? 

Yes, I have had mentors. I 'found' them by asking them to be my mentors AFTER researching how I could add value to their business/life as well. (A good mentorship is a two-way street.) Even if all you are bringing to the table is your enthusiasm, that's a lot. 

What constraints, such as time and money, can make a transition into the working world more difficult? How do you recommend anticipating and preparing for this?

Time and money can always offer restrictions but if you are willing to work at something that is not technically your dream job, while working toward your dream job that often takes care of the money piece. 

Which skill do you find the most important to make a good employee which isn't taught at college?

Listening. Too often people aren't listening -- they are waiting to interrupt or they are lost in their own thoughts. If, however, you are listening closely in meetings where the decisions being made don't appear to affect you, you will be able to understand the goals of the business as a whole. And what that means is that if and when a situation arises and your boss isn’t there to answer the question or make the decision, you will have a strong enough sense of what the goal is to make appropriate decisions on your own. 

What book, or books (in addition to your own), online courses, any outside resources, would you recommend to college students or recent grads?

I wouldn't recommend books per se, but I would recommend changing their home page once a month to give them a sense of the world at large. Whether it's picking a news outlet with a point of view you find incomprehensible or picking the home page of the Metropolitan Museum, forcing yourself outside your comfort zone will only make your more knowledgeable and creative.

Is there something you wish you had known starting out in your professional career?

How willing people are to help you if you a) ask b) are prepared with a concrete request as to why you asked them in particular c) have a concrete idea of what you need  and d) are grateful. Thank you notes will get you everywhere. 

If you had advice for getting your foot in the door leading to my dream career, what would that advice be?

  1. Go on as many informational interviews as possible. Prepare for them as thoroughly as you would a regular interview. 
  2. Tell as many people as possible about the kind of job you are looking for-- don't discriminate. You have no idea who knows whom (a woman in my mother's French class got my foot in the door of one of the best jobs EVER.)

What was the best piece of advice you received from someone else? 

Never walk into your boss's office with the problem. Walk in with the problem and two potential solutions. 

What is an inspirational quote that motivates you?

“Opportunity is missed by most because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”   Thomas Alva Edison

As a university student or recent grad, what do you recommend to create a resume that stands out?

Keep it clean, keep it simple. Back it up with your actions. For example, don't say "I am incredibly persistent" and then never follow up, etc. 

What qualities and skills create a competitive candidate?

A strong statement of how you will be contributing to the company's mission. After that, persistence, attention to detail, follow through.

What inspired your book, 'Wow Your Way Into the Job of Your Dreams'?

Finding a job can be a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be. There are a lot of easy ways to stand out in a crowded field and there are tricks to answering both seemingly innocuous and 'trick' questions. 

Do you have one clear message that you'd like to give to end on?

Employers are not there to make your dreams come true-- you need to do that. Any job can be a dream job if you focus on learning as much as you possibly can and keep thinking about how what you are learning can be applied to your future: waiting time is not wasted time. 

You can learn more about Frances Cole Jones at www.francescolejones.com/