Achieving Professional Growth in a Booming Job Market

About the Episode

Did you know it’s the best job seeker’s market in over 50 years? In this episode of Making it Count, Randy and Cristina take a closer look at all things professional growth, from job hunting to nailing interviews to snagging that promotion you’ve been gunning for. They’re joined by Natalie Nieves, Recruiter at Addition Financial Credit Union, for an insider perspective from the hiring side of the process. Spoiler alert: spend less time on cover letters and more time on your virtual interview setup!


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All About Job Hunting and Professional Growth


Randy asks Question 1: “Natalie, can you break down the actual job hunting process for us in today's market? Are those things different now than they were pre-COVID? Are cover letters still a thing, for example?”

Natalie responds: “Yes, I would say as long as you're making a cover letter intentional and very direct to the role that you are applying for, it can still be purposeful. Now, there are some people that create one blanket cover letter. They apply to 10, 20, 25 different jobs and they use the same cover letter. And if it's just a copy and paste, it loses its value. So I don't think a lot of employers look into that if it just seems copy and paste.”

Randy follows up: “So are you reading cover letters? How can you tell when cover letters are meaningful versus when they appear more cookie cutter?”

Natalie responds: “It's very clear when someone has read the job description and tailored that cover letter to it, and I can see the intention behind it. A lot of times it can be very formative, basic, and it says, ‘I'm looking for growth at your organization,’ copy and paste. And I have seen the wrong organization listed sometimes, so that would be a teller. We can give some grace. But make sure you're editing those cover letters to make sure it's intentional and purposeful so it can really have that impact to the hiring manager.”

The Step-by-Step Guide to Relocating and Starting a New Job


Cristina asks Question 2: “What are the typical steps that you need to take when you're going into that job market?”

Natalie responds: “So you did also ask if things were different from how they were pre-COVID. And I would say so for many reasons. As you had just said, it's booming. Unfortunately, there are a lot of roles that are open since COVID. There are some people who just decided to leave the job market. There are some people who have become permanently disabled from the pandemic as well, who are now unable to work. So the landscape has changed, and along with that, what people are looking for is changing too.”

“Something I did want to mention is when you're starting this job hunting process, I think it's very important to be intentional with what route you want to take. There are so many different opportunities. Define for yourself where do you want to grow, what type of organization you would like to grow in? And that, I would say, is a very, very meaningful first step.”

Cristina follows up: “So it sounds like if you take those steps, it could be a much more efficient way to job hunt. But what happens once the job hunt starts? How long is it taking for people to get hired? And is being in a virtual world and having virtual interviews more accessible, does that make the process faster?”

Natalie responds: “I would say it definitely makes it more convenient for job seekers. We don't necessarily have to get up and go. I know some individuals are interviewing candidates in other states and that makes it entirely more personable to video chat someone rather than a phone call as well. So with that, the average process does take about five months.”

“Sometimes things happen. There might be other recruiters who have so many different things going on. Something that I would say is if you have interviewed and you haven't heard back from someone, you are most definitely able to respectfully send an email, but also don't inundate those hiring managers or the recruiter constantly with updates.”

“If someone says they'll give you an update on Friday, pay that respect and be like, ‘Okay, let me wait till Friday before I send three emails.’ Recruiters love a tap, hiring managers love a tap to remind them because, you know, things are crazy in every industry. People are short-staffed. That's why they're looking for an open job. But also don't over-inundate those individuals as well.”


Randy asks Question 3: “I think the most stressful thing about job hunting is the interview. Based on what you're saying, I was thinking back to horror stories of interviews where things went wrong. Do you have any tips for acing that part?”

Natalie responds: “Yeah, absolutely. It goes along with the resume as well as the interview. Even if you're jumping industries, if you're doing a total 360, make your skills applicable to the job that you're applying to now. And it sounds easier said than done. But I do find a lot of job seekers are kind of struggling with that concept and they don't know how to speak to how their experience is relevant to maybe a different role and a different industry. So there is a lot of value in really reading that job description. And even if you don't have maybe exactly the most applicable experience, you can make things transferable.”

Randy follows up: “And what about in terms of preparation? What should people be doing for virtual or Zoom interviews? Is it any different than phone interviews or in person?”

Natalie responds: “It is a little different. I don't think anyone should get a little too comfortable with the fact that it's a video call. A lot of hiring managers look at lighting. They say ‘If someone didn't take the time to make sure they had good lighting, not for me.’” So still make sure that you're presentable. You're taking those steps to be in a quiet environment if you're able to, that makes an impact as well.”

“On top of that, you want to make sure you come prepared with some situational answers. So there is something called the STAR method of interviewing and interviewing. And what that is, is a method based on answering questions in a structured way so that you're talking about the situation, the task, the action and the result of the action that you took.”

Cristina follows up: “So even if you're changing industries or you're changing job roles, you can make those tasks relevant to the job that you're interviewing for with the star method?”

Natalie responds: “And even if something started as a negative experience — we always are asked, ‘Tell me about a time you had a mad customer, someone who was upset,’ and we always get a little shaken up by the question. ‘Tell me about a time you had to deal with a coworker that was difficult to work with,’ — and we never know how to answer that. But if you structure your answers to the STAR method and show what the result and the positive of that situation was, that's really meaningful and it helps you be prepared so that you're not caught off guard by the questions we’re typically always asked.”

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Cristina asks Question 4: “Do you have any tips for negotiating a salary?”

Natalie responds: “Absolutely. And again, I'm going to sound like a broken record — it does come back to preparation and research. So when you go into a job interview, even if it's in a different industry like we have just talked about, if you're switching roles, it takes a lot of research.”

“One key tip is if someone asks you about your expectations for salary, rather than saying, ‘I am seeking $65,000,’ the key is to say ‘I am interviewing for roles that are between $70–75k.’ That way that employer knows, ‘Okay, she did her research, she knows what she's worth and she already has other opportunities within a different range.’ You always want to make sure your range is realistic.”

“When you see a big range, it might show the person who is looking to interview you that you really don't know what the market is offering. So just doing that research, knowing your worth and having a more concise number is really what's key in that negotiation.”

“We do see that some people say, you know, ‘Well, thank you so much for the offer, but I'm looking to buy a house. And I just had my first child.’ And, you know, while that is totally respectable, you never want to bring your personal reasons into that salary negotiation as well.”

Cristina follows up: “I didn’t know that—why don't you want to do that?”

Natalie responds: “The hiring manager is going to say, ‘Well, aren't we all?’ We all have different life circumstances, but what's really going to sell a hiring manager is if you say my skills, my experience, it brings this number. I've done market research and I'm really looking for this figure. That is really what's going to motivate a hiring manager to offer more rather than maybe some personal reasons. It's about what value you're adding to their role and their organization.”


Randy asks Question 5: “Let's say you negotiate like a pro. You land the job with your preferred compensation — where do you go from there? What are some ways to set yourself up for some long term growth?”

Natalie responds: “I love professional development, so that's definitely a question that I love to hear. Something that I want to preface that with is that is — and this is going to help during that searching phase as well — even the CEO of LinkedIn said that degrees do not matter as much as skills.”

“And even if you're not looking for another role — you're there, you negotiated, you're happy — your job may still change. There's all these different technologies that are going to change the role that you have. So, being adaptable and taking that initiative for your own development is really key.”

“I always encourage people to get a mentor if they're able to, someone in a role that they would like to see. And read! I know that sounds so simple, but always reading what's going on in your industry is going to help you be strategic and you're going to have those fresh ideas, fresh concepts to your role in your organization. And then also, like I said, it's a lot of that self initiative as well. Always try to remain adaptable, upskill yourself and remain competitive in the market.”

Cristina follows up: “Upskill — what does that mean? What would you attribute to that?”

Natalie responds: “I'll use myself as an example. I'm in human resources as a recruiter. Let's say my department has a need for someone who is good with the analytics of the organization. Maybe it's me taking a course on LinkedIn about data analytics. Maybe it's me learning about finances. Upskilling is making sure that whatever your current skill set is, you're always adding to that. So you remain competitive, you remain valuable. And even if technology changes, even if your role changes, your organization pivots, you always have something to fall back on and you're always growing.”


Cristina asks Question 6: “When you're interviewing for a position, it needs to be mutually beneficial, right? Like I have to want to come to work for you. I need to fit in with you as much as you need to fit in with me. So how do you have those discussions to make sure that the interviewee understands that concept?”

Natalie: “I think it's also a part of opening up that conversation. We shy away from questions because a lot of people think that makes you sound maybe a little novice, but questions are great. They open up conversation and as someone who's interviewing for new roles. Some questions that you can ask are, ‘Why is this position currently open?’ Maybe it's a great answer, to hear that someone actually just got promoted.”

“Also do research on the organization, see if their values align with yours, because you want to feel passionate about where you work as well. Not only what your job is. And then along with that, just touring the facility, talking to other people in the role. Maybe you connect with individuals who'll be your coworkers on LinkedIn prior to that and you build those relationships and get to know people before you get there.”


Cristina asks Question 7: “What are some tips for people who are just stepping into a new role or they're moving from a specialist, coordinator role to go up to the next step? How do you prove that you're ready for that next step in the interview?”

Natalie responds: “There's two different ways, right? You can do so internally, or you can be looking elsewhere and maybe you're moving on to a managerial role in another organization. And I think that is a part of being strategic, when you're always reading and you're current. But a big part of that is just that relationship building.”

“Being a leader has changed as well. People have different expectations from their managers than they did maybe 10, 15 years ago, and they're really looking for people that care about them as people, as an individual. So you want to make sure that you're being compassionate. You're also a little vulnerable. I think it takes some vulnerability to be a great leader and to lead the charge of your team, show how you'll motivate people and you know, how to motivate people and tailor different circumstances to them.”

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Making It Count Essentials


Cristina asks Quick Question 1: “How long should I stay at my current role before I start looking?”

Natalie responds: “A minimum, I would say, of two years. Barring if you're in a toxic environment, always do what's best for you in that case. But a minimum of two years to show that you actually did gain knowledge from your current role that you actually learned and were able to grasp the role before moving on. It's something that it shows that you necessarily won't be job hopping as well. And if you're able to show progressive growth on your resume that's very important as well.”


Randy asks Quick Question 2: “How do you decide between quitting a job or sticking it out?”

Natalie responds: “Such a personal question. I think that's something that you really have to get real with yourself on. What do you want out of a job? What do you want out of a career, out of a leader? I think you stick it out when you have that support from your leadership. When you come in and you're happy about who you're going to be working with. But it's so personal and it's a different answer for everyone. So it's a little hard to make a blanket statement.”

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Cristina asks Quick Question 3: “What about networking or virtual networking? Is it worth it?”

Natalie responds: “I think so. Virtual networking, networking in general — it's a way to put a face to the name. Even though, let's say, someone has approached me and I don't have a role for them with my organization, their face, their interaction with me stays on top of mind. And if I meet someone who's looking for something, I might just make that warm connection. So even if it doesn't benefit me, it's just always good to put yourself out there.”


Randy asks Quick Question 4: “Do you have a favorite hiring success story from recruiting?”

Natalie responds: “I love this question. I would say one of my favorite parts is just seeing the growth of everyone who comes on board. I'm always watching them as they're going through the organization. They get their next promotion, I'm their little cheerleader.”

“A very cool success story actually started from someone getting turned down for a role in our organization. And after processing it with the team — the team had given him some great feedback. Saying, you know, ‘I think this role isn't what you think it is.’ And he did some reflection and then he received another promotion elsewhere in the organization. And in hindsight, he was like, ‘You know, you guys were right. Like, that actually wasn't what I wanted to do.’ So it was a no. And that's always hard. I've received a few no's as well before going into my career. It is difficult, but it's about how you pick yourself up and make it a learning experience for yourself.”


You can explore career opportunities at Addition Financial Credit Union at


On this episode, Cristina and Randy shared a previous episode, How to Start Your Career with the Best Foot Forward. Hear from Jordan George of Addition Financial and Cliff Marvin from CareerSource Central Florida about the best practices for switching and starting new careers.

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