Monday, March 23, 2015

Networking Effectively


Networking for professional purposes has been diluted in its meaning, having become so vague it’s worthy of clarifying the different types of networking as related to your job search efforts. It is wise to identify what kind of networking activity will be an investment with a higher rate of return for your efforts.
 
Many people are using social networking in their job search efforts. As with any online resource, you cannot and should not rely upon virtual means as a singular effort, for the simple reason that you will be missing opportunities found by other methods. Many jobs are not posted online. 
 
Some people confuse recreational aimed social media / networking with actual human interactive business networking. How many online friends you can accumulate doesn’t mean much because, after all, there are friends and then there are acquaintances. I suggest most people we know are acquaintances. Facebook and Myspace, which I think is still around but has been supplanted by Facebook, are recreational devices sometimes masquerading as a tool for business networking. Yes, there are products marketed there, but for job search and professional networking I don’t see it as very much use, although some may disagree with me. Facebook can be useful for finding professional sector-specific or support groups a person can join to conduct some level of networking. 
 
LinkedIn is probably the best known and, to my knowledge, the most used business / professional networking tool, although to my irritation, it seems they want to be more like Facebook, because now I get notices about peoples’ birthdays, which is pretty useless for business networking. I mean, I am not going to consider someone professionally as a result of a birthday wish and if you don’t know it already, keeping business and personal activities separate should be a Golden Rule. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a key resource for most recruiters I know, me included. For your information, here is a list of 20 business -aimed social networking websites you may find useful: http://www.sitepoint.com/social-networking-sites-for-business/
 
Another option for social networking for professional purposes is to find resources that are industry specific in scope. For example, I am a military Veteran and there are social networking resources for Veterans. These organizations fulfill many roles and one of them is networking for job opportunities. One with which I am familiar and endorse is http://www.gallantfew.org/, which is a resource for all U.S. Military Veterans but with a special focus on Airborne, Special Forces and Spec Ops Veterans. Social networking isn’t simply about providing a place for professionals to find jobs but, in the case of groups such as Gallant Few, it provides a morale-support aspect when associating with like-minded and focused professionals. 
 
The other type of networking activity is true-blue traditional, business and professional networking. Networking for professional and business purposes, that which networking was before the advent of the digital age, was always conducted in-person and face-to-face. Often business deals were and are conducted as a result. The reason is simple -- via relationships, built as a direct result of physical interaction, is still the most effective because there is more trust and confidence built on personal relationships. Again, association with like-minded people increases the chances of gaining a tangible result. Consider this: would you be as willing to provide a professional reference to someone with whom you might have exchanged online correspondences but don’t know, or, for someone with whom you’ve actually met in person and interacted?
 
Generally speaking, networking is a wise addition to your job search efforts. Many people have better results networking than they do with over-reliance on passive online methods, which allow you to sit on your butt while pretending you’ve actually done something. However, networking of any kind is an activity that takes time, so if you have a short attention span or are obsessed with instant gratification, your expectations may be unrealistic. 
 
Also, keep in mind that searching for a job requires a multi-faceted concert of interwoven activities. This means you also need to have a credible and coherent professional online presence, separate from your personal profile, which I hope your privacy settings reflect. For more suggestions about your online presence in this regard, see my blog entry from Monday, the 2nd of March, earlier this month.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Failure to Communicate


During the conduct of the interview, an applicant is supposed to elaborate upon the information on their resume in order to give the interviewer a good and thorough understanding of their abilities, and how that can relate to the role for which they have applied. Meanwhile, the interviewer should be able to explain to any and all applicants as to what the job entails, and also elaborate about the organization, including the reason as to why this firm is worthy of joining. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get real and substantive information that is necessary to any thoughtful decision; I am speaking with reference to both the interviewer as well as the interviewee. 
 
I speak and meet with a lot of people and the majority are spewing the same old tired clichés and lines. There is so little originality as everyone is becoming a stereotype. Hiring managers repeat the same lines that have no meaning and their brains are too often shut off as they just go through the motions. I spoke with a hiring manager who told me they are looking for someone who is innovative, someone who is a self-starter and a hard worker (yawn). So I asked, “What do you mean by that; please describe what innovative means to you? How do you define a self-starter and a hard worker; I need to understand your perspective in order to find you the type of person you are describing?” As often happens, they looked   confused and, as often occurs, they didn’t know how to answer. At the same time they are dumbfounded as to why they can’t attract the right potential employees. Or, if I ask them, “Okay, so help me to help you; in order to attract the types of people you say you want to hire, please tell me a few reasons why someone should consider joining your company?” They go on to say things such as, “We’re a market leader”, or “We’re a great place to work”… But when I again ask them what that means and to elaborate, their frustration is visible (and so is mine). 
 
To be fair, job applicants are very often just as zombie-esque in their rote and empty claims. They say things such as, “I want to join a good company.” So I ask them to elaborate, to explain to me what their definition of a good company is, to which they reply, “You know, a good and stable company with growth potential.” And again, I ask them what does that mean, to them?  Increasingly often, they can’t answer with anything more than generalities or more clichés. Meanwhile, they are frustrated that no company is calling them back.
 
In both cases, I have to really probe to get any real substance from them and often they become frustrated by my questions because, for whatever reason, they are not capable of articulating what they want, or seek to really communicate. I don’t expend much effort or waste much time with these people. 
 
Where this is going is simple; regardless of on which side of the table you sit during the interview process, you have to switch off the auto-pilot, grab the controls and fly manually, using your God-given senses and develop your abilities, if you want to excel. You have to do more than to only want or wish it. Sure, everyone says they want to, and if you ask them they’ll tell you they really, really mean it. You must be able to do more than simply talk a good game. At the very minimum, may I suggest that you conduct the most basic of due diligence necessary in order to both back up and elaborate your claims. Be able to actually represent yourself and your organization with more substance than worn-out talking points; in short, try actually communicating and engaging in a discussion at the interview, rather than trading in canned and watered-down empty calorie questions and answers. Or, as another cliché would suggest that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
 
And if I haven’t already made my point, try this; sharp hiring managers take notice of those who do more than spew forth the same old boring clichés. Likewise, sharp candidates recognize and gravitate toward hiring managers who are not just going through the motions and faking it. If you want to be different, try a little individuality. I say it too often but for many it falls on deaf ears; if you look like, sound like and act like everyone else, why should anyone take notice of, or choose you, over any of the other also-rans? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why You Should Heed My Advice


I hear people complain and say, “…you don’t know how tough it is.” Or, “when was the last time you looked for a job”, blah, blah…  well, those folks couldn’t be more mistaken. For those who want to do more than to complain; if you are serious and you mean it, I can help with useful advice if you’re ready to do more than most people – who, by the way, aren’t doing much so it’s no wonder many see no real results.
 
For more than two decades I have been conducting business that is closely connected to peoples’ job searches and interview efforts. So I have been directly involved with, witnessed, and heard more situations than I could ever list. Furthermore, I apply the same advice that I give to others, and translate it into my own business development efforts, which includes sales technique that is at the heart of what you should be doing for yourself now, or whenever you will find yourself searching and/or interviewing for a new job.
 
For example: When I am conducting business development and building relationships with new companies to market my services, it’s a sure bet they already have someone else they are using for their recruiting needs. So, if I call them and say something generic, weak, and non-specific like, “…do you have any vacant positions, maybe I can help”, they will disregard me. It is likely they’ll walk away from the conversation feeling they just wasted five minutes of their life that they can’t get back. The simple fact is I’ve given them no reason to take notice of me or consider me any further, because I would sound like every other mediocre person out there saying the same, lame thing. You know, like most job seekers who can’t figure out why they are getting nowhere. If I want to be seriously considered, I must give them a reason as to why they should consider me over someone else, whose services they already use, or why they should consider my services compared with many others seeking the same thing. So let me ask rhetorically, how does this differ from your task, when you seek to gain the attention of a potential employer? 
 
If you haven’t already noticed, what I’ve just described is selling, whether selling a service, a tangible product, or selling someone on the idea that you are more worthy of notice and consideration than the next person, and this is what I do when I coach people in their job search and interview efforts. These concepts are necessary and to dismiss it is fine, you can go right back to the crowd standing over there, collecting dust and bitching about how unfair everything is. Or, you can challenge yourself to take one or more of my suggestions and step out of your comfort zone, which I contend for some, may not be so comfy. 
 
The job market is difficult and getting more so. Don’t doubt me on this selling business as it relates to your efforts. You are the product and your resume is your product brochure, and the sooner you get your head around that fact, the better. Furthermore, a professional sales person is someone who truly believes in the product(s) or services they represent. Any loser who claims, “I can sell anything” is a con artist, at best. 
 
So, if you believe in yourself, what you have to offer a company, and you feel confident you can contribute to an organization of which you seek to be a part, you must get them to take notice. That takes more than a finely-crafted resume, the sole purpose of which is to get you in the door and seated in front of a hiring manager. Which means, you will need to multi-task and get beyond the resume in order to truly capitalize on any opportunity. 
 
One thing I am not shy about is saying that the people I coach always do better and are better prepared for their interviews. So it’s up to you, do things your way if it is working for you and getting results. If it is not, well… I don’t suggest anyone do anything I haven’t or wouldn’t do myself. The new reality these last few years requires that you must do more than have a good resume to be noticed. You can’t get hired if you can’t get noticed, and you’re unlikely to get noticed if you are standing in the middle of a crowd of others, who all look and sound alike.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Increasing Your Chances


I am always preaching to people that they should exercise all their options and to not rely solely upon point-and-click online job search efforts, which have a limited chance for success, if that’s all you are doing. You should avail yourself of multiple methods and strategies. However, I’ve never said nor suggested you stop your online efforts when, in fact, you should be doing many different things simultaneously.
 
Most people have a resume and many invest a lot of time to have a good one. But even those focused predominantly on digital means fail to use social media to its fullest potential. While I espouse the need for people to be proactive and hands-on in their efforts, you should not neglect the passive means by which others might come upon and find you. You must learn how to juggle your efforts; you have to multi-task. 
 
There is little doubt that LinkedIn, as an example, is a good resource and currently the most popular social-networking resource on a professional level. Most recruiters and agencies use it as a primary tool and resource to quickly and effectively find potential job candidates. That won’t be the case forever and at some point something else will replace it, but for the moment I don’t see anything on the horizon.
 
It doesn’t cost anything to have a profile and I suggest that, if you don’t have one, to consider it. If you do, then it should be every bit as good, impactful and as detailed as your resume – frankly speaking, it should be identical to your resume. Many different professions have social media sites reflective of their market and business niche. I am in no way endorsing LinkedIn but simply using it as a frame of reference.  
 
Many are nervous because, well, what if their boss sees it? And guess what, I’ll bet he or she has a similar profile. It is also likely they are listed and have a professional bio on their company website, so why not you, as well? I’m only suggesting you post a professional profile like everyone else and, if you are asked, simply tell them the truth -- you want to increase your online professional credentials. If you are still worried, then improve upon it in stages so as not to arouse any attention. Furthermore, if you have invested time in your resume, it makes sense and requires very little time to transfer the info onto whatever professional social networking website suits you, be it LinkedIn, Xing or any number of pages focusing on your niche market; there are also groups and associations for military veterans for social networking. However, resist the urge to sign up and post on too many different pages, lest you’ll lose track of all the places where your info is posted. There are exceptions, and some companies or organizations forbid their employees from posting online professional profiles, but that is usually due to security concerns. 
 
I’ve long suggested you adopt a mindset by which you are always watchful for new opportunities, regardless of how secure you think your job is – today.  But that is not the main point, which is, you are simply keeping with modern trends and that means you have an online professional profile. By the way, if your boss has one, does that automatically mean he or she is looking for a job? 
 
I am not anti-corporate, but I am more pro-employee than ever, for the simple fact that we are all regarded as more expendable than ever – even though there are, as I contend, no expendable people. The days of companies looking out for and taking care of their employees is a thing of the past, which means you have to do more for yourself; if no one is looking out for you then who else is going to do it?
 
Increase your odds as best you can and this is yet but one small thing to add to a long list, which you can and should do for yourself. Do this not to replace your physical efforts but to raise your professional profile in conjunction with your other efforts.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

To Those Still Asleep




I give advice to people about how to better enable themselves to find jobs, using means beyond the same methods used by everyone else. If the crowd goes in one direction I advise another route. I also provide much more advice and tips for interviewing more effectively – something that, in reality, most people are essentially clueless about – including most interviewers, believe it or not.

But let me take this opportunity to inform and awaken those who are currently working and yet doing nothing constructive to either A) be better prepared, qualified or positioned in order to be more appealing to potential employers, or B) to galvanize and better protect your current job status and value to your present employer. This is how you make yourself as indispensable as you can. Continuing education is a career-long effort and it does not necessarily involve so-called institutions of higher learning, it is worthy of noting; so much now is available online. The bottom line is you have to make the effort before events overtake you and, folks, the writing on the wall could not be more obvious for 6+ years and counting.

Among those who are currently working, there are those who are nervously watching and listening for every event and rumor trying to anticipate their impending doom. On the other end of the scale, I see those who are comfy in their routine and they just don’t seem aware they could be impacted by any market fluctuations; that stuff happens to everyone else – they think they’re immune. Then there’s everyone else, situated somewhere between those two extremes. If, as indicated in my last blog entry, you are currently employed and think you are safe, I wish you well. But considering the way things are trending, now more than ever you should be prepared. 

Among those who are currently employed and at most risk, are people who have been in one position for a long time, without any advancement and have done no updating of their skills nor have engaged in  professional self-improvement initiatives. Furthermore, if the ax falls and your job is cut after being with one organization for more than a decade – again, without having done anything that would add value to your status as an employee, then yeah, you should be nervous. Hey, don’t kill the messenger and take advantage of the wake-up call, if it isn’t already too late. 

Some companies still offer company paid (or reimbursed) training for those who want to improve their skills, or they may cost share. Regardless of whether they do or not, you should be updating or improving your skills to stay relevant. No one is safe anymore and to think otherwise is, frankly, indicative of being tone deaf to what is happening all around us. Making yourself more indispensable does not mean sucking up or being a brown-nose; besides, even if you think you have your boss’s favor, guess again; if they or their regime depart, where does that leave you?  

Nobody can willfully sit back, collect dust and collect a paycheck, assuming no one will notice and, if so, you may get what you deserve. If you have a skill, improve upon it; if you’re good at something, become even better. If you are in an industry that is dying, don’t just sit there; start taking courses or cross-train. However, this does not necessarily mean you should incur debt with an MBA or something similar. University degrees are increasingly over-rated considering the value proposition of what you get in return for the investment, and another framed degree on the wall does not make you more valuable. But expanding on qualifications, keeping up with industry trends and, of course, making a level-best effort to perform in your work to your best of ability is not only important to your employer, but also for your own self-respect. 

My father worked for Ford Motor for about 35 years, his father worked for GM for about as many years, but those days are long gone. I’m not a pessimist, don’t misunderstand me, but I am a realist. As a long-time headhunter and consultant, I am a Prepper of sorts within the professional realm. I am always seeking ways to stay ahead and anticipate trends and contemplate the what-ifs, considering the best ways to gird for unpleasantness, however it can be prevented, avoided or at least, short-lived. I’m an adherent of perpetual preventive maintenance as opposed to doing nothing and awaiting misfortune. The new normal demands we all adopt this mindset. As I noted last week, what was prior to 2008 is no longer - it’s dead and gone. With all that said, the future need not be bleak. Applying the coldest logic, to evolve means you must adapt, or die (in a manner of speaking) and the same applies toward your career. Anticipate, prepare to prevent and ride out as best you can the changes that will affect all of us at one time or another. There are a lot of things you could and should be doing – if you’re not already. I offer my own expertise, to those unsure of where and how to start. 

I love the proverb that is claimed to be Native American in its origin, although I suppose many cultures have a version to the same effect, which states, “You cannot awaken those who pretend to sleep.” Are you awake, or is your strategy instead to feign sleep, with your eyes tightly shut and your fingers crossed? I have no sympathy for sleepwalkers. 

Okay, enough of this stuff – the next time we’ll get back to providing some helpful advice.  

 

 



Monday, February 16, 2015

The Way It Was/The Way It Is


I write about methods people can use to help and fortify their job search and/or interview efforts, covering a wide range of suggestions ranging from the most basic to advanced techniques I use with effectiveness. I share the personality and character traits that most effectively convey confidence and will cause people to sit up and take notice of you. When I refer to attributes such as confidence, courage and self-assuredness, some think I am too demanding and ask too much of people. Not so, I am a student of human nature and my career places me in an ideal position for this. Everyone has it in them to rise above their circumstance to improve their lot in life. For those who strive for a better circumstance, there are no expendable people, and I hope my blog provides some usable material for those who want to take advantage of it. The day I cease my recruiting activities and stop closely interacting with employers and job seekers will be the day I can no longer claim to be an expert, because the day after I stop, my advice is no longer timely or current. In the meantime, trust me; I give advice that is utilized on a regular basis.
 
It is obvious to most everyone that the economy and trends that affect the ways we seek new jobs, and the environments related to the whole job search and interview thing, is markedly different today than it was prior to 2008, would you agree? In 2006 for example, with the exception of some sectors like manufacturing, which had already been drying up for more than a decade, for the most part jobs, good jobs, were more available and accessible to qualified applicants – especially if you had a good resume and kept your skills current. In fact, I look back now and joke, with tongue in cheek, that back then if you had a pulse and a good resume you could find a job. 
 
Today’s environment is far different. Even mediocre jobs are being fought over. Companies, generally speaking, treat applicants deplorably and I have never seen such a lack of civility and common courtesy, much less customer service, which have sunk to levels I never would have thought possible. In 2015 job seekers have it tougher than I have ever witnessed since I began recruiting in last months of 1992. This is not to say there aren’t some good sectors in today’s market, but not for the widest demographic of job seekers, who simply want an opportunity to demonstrate their worth to a company that will likewise give them that chance, it is challenging. This is the swamp people seeking gainful employment must navigate. 
 
So my first point is simple; if you are reading this and you haven’t searched for a job since pre-2008, you are in no position to judge what other people are going through. Count yourself as lucky but don’t be smug, it’s a pretty good bet that if trends continue, you may find yourself searching for a job and will thus experience first-hand, and you’ll be in for a surprise, when you get to experience the new normal.
 
My second and primary point is, if the jobs market has devolved and the landscape is different, then isn’t it logical that the manner by which you conduct yourself should adapt to the market changes and trends? In 2006, sending a resume online and then sitting back to enjoy your morning coffee may have worked then, but isn’t it a bit delusional to think the same strategy will work now?  
 
However, this is not to say good jobs are impossible to find and perhaps you find yourself doing something completely different from what you set out to do in your career. A lot has changed and, so too, should you change your outlook or re-evaluate what “success” means to you. One thing is certain, point-and-click by itself is not enough and you must strive to do more.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Demonstrating Interest is Not Begging


It increasingly frustrates me to observe the growing number of job seekers who want or need a new job, but they have a strange and ill-conceived notion they don’t have to actually do anything to accomplish it. Like magic, doors will swing wide and all you have to do is conduct a few keystrokes and send your digital resume; the rest just sort of happens; right, isn’t that what we’ve been led to believe? Pretty silly sounding isn’t it, but that is the assumption by which most of us operate.
 
More than ever people reach out to me for advice and I am most happy to provide assistance, after all, that’s why I write this blog. But more and more, people are not willing to do anything that requires real effort. Often my suggestions are dismissed as unreasonable, which is odd because they work. I don’t know if people are more reticent because they are scared or lack confidence in themselves (see my last blog post), but I suspect their soft skills have degraded to the point from which it takes very little to push them out of their insulated, albeit shrinking, comfort zone. 
 
Some of the most basic advice I share is that companies want people who want to work for them and they take note of those who are a bit more innovative and proactive. Which means you should express your interest. Another suggestion for how to set yourself apart is, for example: if you see a company listed with the job description and there is a contact name, instead of doing what everyone else does, be a bit different. At the same time you submit your resume also look up the contact person on LinkedIn. Click on Connect, then where it says How do you know (name)? - click on Friend. Then you can compose a short message not exceeding 300 characters and spaces. It is simple but yet proactive, try this:

Dear Mr. /Ms. XXXX,
 
I applied for the position of (position name). Please add me to your contacts and I look forward to meeting you. 

Regards,

Your name

You will note it is mildly assumptive in tone, which denotes confidence. It also doubles your chances of being noticed as you are doing a little more than everyone else. Even this very small extra gesture may be all it takes. And what is the worst that can happen -- they might not call? They’re not calling you now, while your resume languishes among the tens or hundreds of others in a virtual heap. 

I recently pressed someone to do this and they responded that they were reluctant, telling me what many people say, “I don’t want them to think I am begging for a job; I’m not going to beg.” And here is the problem I see: people mistakenly think that to show interest, even a small measure more than the non-activity of emailing a resume, is somehow lowering themselves – amazing

Well, as I was saying, I pressed someone, who complained to me they were not getting any responses to their email entreaties, to do just what I suggested above. They did so, grudgingly. And while I would never say this, or any other method works every time, guess what happened? Within 24 hours they received a call from the company to which they applied. That was two weeks ago; she starts her new job next week.

Sometimes you need not make grand gestures to have an intended effect; start out small but do something more and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone – you might be surprised by what happens. With each passing day, while you procrastinate and avoid doing what you know you should do, don’t think about it too much and just do it – not next week or next month, but do something now. And if you are looking for some ideas, visit my blog archives.