Sarah Johnston’s “Briefs” Job Search Newsletter | | Job Search Smarter

In this issue: your digital footprint, how to level up in a “what have you done for me lately” culture, why experts say you should change careers every 10 years, interview example responses, and more…

Dear Reader:

My grandparents were a big part of my upbringing. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother at her little house on Skyline Dr. These visits hold some of my fondest childhood memories. One of my grandmother’s and my favorite activities was putting together her many puzzles. She collected puzzles and had some really gorgeous and unique ones. It was always a calculated process – sort the outside and inside pieces before building the border. After the frame, we would sort colors and look for identifying characteristics in pieces. We would spend HOURS hunched over the coffee table in her living room, putting puzzles together piece by piece.

Putting a puzzle together is much like a journey to finding a job. We must first build a framework – determine the positions that excite us and draw on our skill sets. We then have to sort our pieces of experience and skills and craft them into a resume that reflects keywords from our target job description. Finally, we have to work diligently to ensure all the pieces fit together as we network, interview, and discuss with decision-makers about jobs that interest us. In the end, if done well, we can stand back and admire a process well done.

If you are in the process of a job search currently, or feel one is on the horizon – don’t rush. Take your time and commit to a thoughtful and strategic process. The end result will be worth it.

Rooting for you,


The Digital Age

What You Should Know About Your Digital Footprint
What You Should Know About Your Digital

I enjoyed discussing this topic with Helen Harris about the impact of our digital footprint and how we can take control of our own narratives.

Gen Z admits to stalking bosses on social media
Gen Z admits to stalking bosses on social

It is not uncommon for a hiring manager to research candidates on social platforms. However, they aren’t the only ones searching. Fortune’s Jane Thier reports that the majority of Gen Z job seekers are looking at employers, employees, and managers online to decide if they want to work for them. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in a while, this article is a gentle nudge.


Lean Out: Employees Are Accepting Lower Pay In Order To Work Remotely
Lean Out: Employees Are Accepting Lower Pay In Order To Work

Priorities have shifted and some companies are making employees choose between pay and flexibility. Greg Rosalsky of NPR’s Planet Money looks at a new study that finds American companies are using remote work as a way to avoid giving workers raises; so much so that it’s helping to moderate inflation.

Red Flags You Won’t See on a CEO’s Resume
Red Flags You Won’t See on a CEO’s

This is a fascinating podcast and worth the listen. In this episode, the host is in conversation with HBS professor Aiyesha Dey about looking at an applicant’s character when hiring executives. One of the things they found was a striking correlation between attendees of a UN convention in New York and parking tickets received. The parking tickets received were correlated with corruption back in their home country. The conclusions drawn from their findings are enlightening.


Make the Move

Make a Career Change Every 10 or So Years, Experts Say
Make a Career Change Every 10 or So Years, Experts

Bloomberg’s Arianne Cohen reports on labor experts’ findings that a radical career shift every decade or two can be good for both workers and employers. Allison Gabriel, professor of management and organizations at the University of Arizona in Tucson research shows longevity in a “career” is not what is best for anyone.

The Metaverse

“The Metaverse Will Be at Least 30% Of Every Creative Agency’s Business in the Next Few Years”
“The Metaverse Will Be at Least 30% Of Every Creative Agency’s Business in the Next Few Years”

This is MRM COO Ronald Ng’s bold prediction about the future of the creative industry’s business. Little Black Book‘s editorial team distills down what the industry had to say about the most buzzword-y theme at the IRL Cannes Lions 2022 Festival of Creativity. The LBB editorial team also discussed the subject with a range of leaders from around the world and shares a sampling of their thoughts.

Small Biz Aspirations?

When evaluating future job options, it may make sense for some of you to hire yourself! Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but for some, it can offer freedom, flexibility, higher income potential, and the ability to exercise creativity in new ways. If you are considering “hanging a shingle,” I want to encourage you to check out SCORE.

SCORE, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. I have benefitted from SCORE mentors in multiple cities and think they are top-notch. Most SCORE mentors are former executives or small business owners who have retired or have the flexibility in their schedule to mentor. Your SCORE mentor can help you evaluate your business plan, help you get connected to area resources, and be a sounding board when you have business challenges.

Interview Techniques

How To Answer "Tell Me About A Time You Failed" (Samples)
How To Answer “Tell Me About A Time You Failed” (Samples)

“Tell me about a time you failed” is an interview question that many people misunderstand. Hannah Morgan, of Career Sherpa, outlines how to answer this question and gives some excellent example responses.

Level Up

Many of you work in a “what have you done for me lately” culture.

“President’s Club” sales winner in 2021? It’s 2022, you gotta hit your numbers and prove that you still deserve your job.

If you are a mid-level manager and want to level up, I recommend making sure that you have a regularly scheduled check-in meeting with your boss.

Visibility leads to promotability.

Even if you work in a “laid back” culture, I recommend creating a paper agenda that you print off and bring to the meeting. One for you, and one for your boss as a leave behind.

These meetings are a great way to bring up what you are working on at a high level.

Start quantifying your success with your leader. I see even very senior executives struggle with this concept. Learning how to value/quantify your efforts and succinctly explain how you are impacting the bottom line is a skill.


“Just want to let you know, we are already 3% ahead of last quarter. We did X and Y differently and it seems to be paying off”

Lastly, use these meetings as an opportunity to ask for advice— but only ask if you truly care about your boss’s answers.

When you ask someone for advice, they become more invested in the success of the project. A Harvard Business School professor, Alison Wood, also found that those who ask for advice seem smarter.

It’s hard to know what’s around the corner, but showing up and showing up smartly can be a game changer for many professionals looking to level up their careers.

Can you do me a favor?

I’m on a mission to help job seekers land amazing jobs. Would you consider doing one of the following:

  • Forward this newsletter to your job-searching friends or post about it on social media. This small act really helps!
  • Consider sharing my company name with your HR leadership. We are a great “white-glove” boutique option for executive outplacement
  • Recommend me as a paid speaker for your company events on networking, job searching, or leveraging LinkedIn
  • Recommend my services to high performers wanting to work one-on-one with an executive resume writer / or experienced interview coach

Did you enjoy this issue?


  • Sarah Johnston

    I’m a former corporate recruiter and industry “insider” who got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents or know how to position themselves in interviews. I have relocated multiple times across the country as a “trailing spouse” and have had to execute job searches in completely cold markets (where I literally knew no one!) I have been named a LinkedIn Top Voice in the career space in 2019, HR Weekly’s Top 100 Most Influential People in HR, named the owner of the “best resume writing firm for experienced executives” by Balance Careers and a “top follow” by JobScan in 2019 and 2020.

Sarah Johnston

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