Thursday, March 28, 2013

What and Who Stands in Your Way, Part II

I know very well that a person can have a most impressive, best-written resume packed with information, accomplishments and what appears a guaranteed success – on paper. Yet, when the person is face-to-face, it is a disaster. Likewise, some of the best qualified and most suitable applicants have the worst-looking resumes. Assuming yours is decent enough to get you an interview, it is what happens when you are face-to-face that counts; that’s what they’ll remember and not your resume. It’s all about the moment you shake hands and the interaction with those you meet that will determine if the resume confirms you are as you’ve presented yourself, or if it was just a lot of nicely-arranged fluffy words, or 90% smoke and 10% horsepower, as I like to say. Regardless of whether you take the initiative, or timidly wait for them to call you, there is no substitute for the one-on-one human interaction, which is inevitable. But in order to have that opportunity you must get in front of the hiring official. So aside from the standard of most people who wait for the telephone to ring, how do you do it? I tend to look at objectives and goals with a strategic military eye; what’s the goal, how you gonna get there, what could go wrong, how will you compensate, and what will signify an achieved result(s) along the way?  

There are three different types of obstacles that stand between you and the hiring manager, whose hand you’d like to shake and have an opportunity to demonstrate how you could be an asset to their company. In the most general terms they are: 

·         Procedural obstacles

·         Physical obstacles

·         Admin and support staff  

We all know these; go to the website, register on the website, email your resume in this format or that one, etc. Then, jump up and down on one leg, pat the top of your head with the left hand and rub your tummy in a circular motion with the right at the same time... Sorry, I got a little carried away.  

Go through reception and/or security; state the reason for your visit, have an appointment, etc. - anything less and you can’t enter. With the exception of additional security measures added during the last decade, this has always been standard and is nothing new at most companies. 

Administrative and support staff
Here’s where it gets interesting because we’re adding the human element. Assuming you want to do more than just email your resume and sit on your hands waiting for an invite, I will suggest ways to make contact and get past these people I refer to as the gate keepers. Among their responsibilities, they are partially tasked with preventing you access or conducting any activities that go beyond the standard procedural steps and the proscribed boundaries.

If you want to make additional efforts and go a step further than others, to step outside the boundaries, your interaction with the gate keepers will determine whether or not you will get beyond the procedural boundaries and/or the physical limitations. Remember I spoke of a video game analogy; well, this is where your actions will get you to the next level or you’ll have to go back and do it again. It might sound daunting and it takes some effort, but everything I will suggest I do and have done on a regular basis for the last 20 plus years as a headhunter, and before that while in sales roles. Nothing has changed except the perceptions to which people limit themselves. We’re talking about the same methods any accomplished sales person employs and refers to as cold calling. The advantage to those who are willing to try these methods is that most others aren’t willing to make the extra effort, so you’re already setting yourself apart by not being everyone else, and that’s a good start as you begin to think outside the box, because that’s what innovators do.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

What and Who Stands in Your Way, Part I

I regularly suggest that if people are serious about their job search efforts they must do more than limit their activity primarily to, or in the case of many, exclusively online activities. If you want better results you cannot limit your activities to passive means - not if you are serious. Simply increasing the number of resumes you toss out there, or relying on luck and prayer isn’t a strategy, that’s methodology suited more for lottery ticket purchases.  

Those born since the advent of the Internet likely never learned the ancient art of looking for a job as it was done a mere 20 years ago. I can hear it now, “What, you mean I have to actually go out and meet people before I have an interview?” Yep, that’s what I’m saying, you’re going to have to go old school; shoe leather, handshakes, telephone calls and, oh yeah, you’re gonna have to learn how to deal with in-your-face rejection. Ah, the bitter taste of rejection experienced up-close and personal. Figuratively speaking, you’ve got to get your hands dirty and wade into the swamp with a knife blade between your teeth. If these things sound unpalatable to you, sorry but rejection and struggling against occasional adversity is part of life and everyone loses more often than they win, which is what makes the taste of winning all the more sweet. 

Online job-hunting efforts should always be one of your tools and it can be sufficient all by itself during good economic times, like a few years ago, when just about anyone with a pulse could find a job if they really wanted one. On the other hand, when times are tougher that effort by itself doesn’t cut it. The need to evolve with a changing environment is a good way of saying “adapt or die” and could there be a more obvious sign of change than the current state of the job market?  

It’s easy for someone to criticize and point out what’s wrong. I can suggest generic solution sound-bites and toss about vague suggestions. I can tell you to do this or do that, but without taking the time to explain in some detail would be like telling a group of young and enthusiastic military recruits with no training, “See that hill, I want you to march up that hill and take it”, then sit back and watch them get cut down by the people intent on denying access. So, if you’re willing to open your mind and try new things that may seem a little uncomfortable, I’ll help as best I can and share some basic techniques. But first you need to better know what you are up against. There are procedures and people who, among their functions are there to prevent you entry; maybe not consciously but it is the case nonetheless. No matter, many people are obsessed with video gaming, in which the whole point is to get around and overcome obstacles to reach the next level, so these facts shouldn’t deter you from your goal. We are starting small and as such, your goal is not to get the job no, that may be the destination but there’s a lot in-between here and there, one step at a time; your goal at this stage is getting the interview. So once you get your head right and ready to do this, let’s talk about who and what is in your way.  

(Part II will be posted on Thursday)

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obstacles in Your Way, Part III


Okay, so let’s wrap this up. If you already know it all and know more than me, good for you, but if you find yourself nodding your head with me in agreement, let’s start small. To begin, here’s a simple suggestion and one so crazy and radical I may find myself on a watch list as someone fomenting discontent. Don’t so easily take “no” for an answer. Instead of accepting limitations and illegitimate rules imposed on you by bureaucratic lumps, indeed do your preliminary online research, and then peel yourself from your comfy chair, clear the cobwebs and reboot your creativity and burn up a little shoe leather; go out and speak to real people. Knocking on doors, shaking hands or actually speaking to hiring officials will do a lot more for you than emailing resumes. You get what you give and when someone tells me, with their head hung low with defeat in their eyes and whining “…but I sent a lot of resumes and nothing’s happening”; at that moment I don’t know whether to pity them or feel frustration, but I make it clear to them they haven’t really done anything. 

If you do get up and get out there, what happens when you are inevitably faced with a self-important bureaucrat who stands in your path as an obstacle? Smile, thank them for their time and then go around them because that is what you do when something gets in your way. If you are exercising all your options you will inevitably encounter a jerk at one time or another. Don’t let it deter you or take you off your game; don’t sink to their level when you run into someone who is nasty, instead celebrate because that is one less jerk you'll  have to talk to again. 

On most occasions I use this blog to share the Best Practices resulting from over 20 years experience representing top 20% professionals and also helping client companies to attract the best available talent. However, for this particular post I feel the need to take the occasion to remind people they are very often their own biggest obstacle, limiting themselves and handicapping their own efforts. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different, most realities about looking for a job have not changed; company managers like people who take initiative. Innovation is still something of value. Go ahead and be the oddball, if everyone wants to sit back and wring their hands, as most people will do anyway, let them – the advantage then becomes yours. The worst thing that can happen is you may be told “no”, and each “no” brings you closer to a “yes”. Fortune favors the bold, as the saying goes.

(Okay, so enough about what’s wrong and how people have been shortchanging themselves, if you’re serious and  you really want a better and different results, let’s  next discuss  what you can do about it) 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Obstacles in Your Way, Part II


I grow tired when I suggest to someone they should do a little research, determine the identity and contact information for a particular manager, who might be in charge of a segment or department in a company, and then initiate direct contact. I suggest they introduce themselves, having prepared to be able to introduce, present and suggest how their experience can be a benefit to that manager and the company. On more than one occasional the person I am trying to help will reply forcefully. “No, I just can’t see myself doing that.” Oh really, and why not? Everyone wants the nice shiny ring but most people are unwilling to invest in the prep time, effort and sweat equity necessary. How about you? Don’t kill the messenger, but the truth is that most people are barely making any effort and, as a result, they barely scratch the surface of what they could be doing to help themselves. Most people are not willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. “Eeeew, you want me to do what?” is the implied reaction I often get from people. On the other hand there are those who would like to do more but they don’t know where to start. Your professor certainly doesn’t know. In fact when I lecture students their professors tell me afterward, over and over again, they appreciate the insight I provide to their students. I am of the opinion this information should be somehow developed and added to the curriculum of high schools in a workshop format prior to graduation. And yes, I’ll speak to any group who wants to bring me in, I’ll help any institution with real interest to develop a curriculum to re-teach the skills lost to an entire generation handicapped by their dependence on digital solutions 

Just look at how far we’ve sunk; whether you are still in school, in a government sponsored re-training program, or name just about any scenario, you are likely to be placed in front of a computer monitor and the training is primarily digitally based - you name it - your resume, looking for and finding job listings, etc. But there is NOTHING and nobody teaching people how to interact, communicate, negotiate, innovate when they find themselves sitting opposite a hiring manager. There is no training for how to best present one’s skills and accomplishments, how to answer and overcome an objection or a concern they may need to answer. Most people don’t know the best manner by which to follow up after an interview. Do you know the best manner to follow up, when to follow up and what to say when you do? Nope! But everyone is told over and over again about rules, what they cannot do, shouldn’t attempt, and cannot accomplish on their own. So let’s start to turn this on it’s head; if you want to really help yourself, throw their rule books out the window, because when it comes to helping yourself, searching for and competing for a job, there are no rules but one, the Golden Rule and always conducting yourself with professional courtesy.  

(Part III and the conclusion will be posted on Thursday)

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Obstacles in Your Way, Part I

I hear it all the time - people explain to me why they fail to make progress finding a good job or get ahead, prevented from finding success. They go to great pains, telling me all the reasons why they can’t seem to get ahead. I understand it’s difficult out there and for the last few years it seems as if there are more hoops to jump through and, increasingly it seems you need permission to do anything because there are people everywhere telling you what you can or can’t accomplish. The act of searching for a new job has always been a task but it was always an exercise in which, if you made the efforts, used your head and applied a measure of innovation here and there whenever possible, you would eventually meet with some success. Now it seems to be more like a roll of the dice and people refer to words like luck to describe what they need to find success. There sure seem to be a lot of rules now, than I remember; more things you supposedly can’t or shouldn’t do and far fewer options of what you can do on your own behalf. As a result many are quite timid about what they are willing to do for themselves, feeling as if they are fighting an uphill battle with one hand tied behind their backs. The rules seem to have changed; the lines have blurred. Or have they, really?  

Add to this frustration that there are obviously fewer available opportunities; therefore, people feel they have less options available to them. How many college grads are vying for and working in jobs that require less than the degree most have financed and will be repaying for years to come? How many people have worked and played by the rules their entire career, only to find they have to start over after their 50th birthday. How many Veterans have served exceptionally who, upon finishing their service and receiving one of the 8 copies of their DD Form 214, find they have no resources or support - talk about having to start over! What about high school grads who are considering their futures, and everyone else in between? Increasingly people feel obligated as if they have to take a job, any job, because there just aren’t any real opportunities out there. 

In truth, most of the obstacles people claim/blame, are self-imposed or merely perceived no-nos. People have handicapped themselves for fear of straying outside of some imaginary guidelines of what is acceptable behavior when trying to help themselves. To succumb to this mindset handicaps your ambition and what were once traits of self sufficiency have settled into atrophy, with lethargy descending into dependency as a result. According to much of what I hear and read, job seeking etiquette means be patient, do some online research, send a resume and wait for someone to tell you when you can stand up, sit down, move, speak and all from the comfort of your chair at home in your underwear. Gee, could Zager & Evans have been right! This passive method of job searching is adequate if you don't need a job and just want to throw a fishing line in the water, sit back and see what happens. But if you need or seek a new job and you're dumb enough to think this level of activity will get you real results, how's that working for you so far?
I’ve spent my career representing top 20 percentile job seekers, prepping and coaching them to most effectively compete against others who are also sharp, helping them to duel for and compete over the same job and win. I also help companies to identify and attract the best available talent in the marketplace, so the best qualified job seekers choose my clients over other competing companies and I am very good at it. But, increasingly I find myself helping people with not the finer points but, instead, the rudimentary basics of how they can help themselves. I find it remarkable I must convince people that they have more options available to them beyond the cut/paste/click methods of finding and pursuing job opportunities. Sorry but in reality that’s simply not good enough; it never has been and never will be. What has made people think this kind of activity will result in finding a job?  

(Part II will be posted on Monday)

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Walk Away, Pt II


Employing the Take-Away is simply being honest and you’re doing what they, for whatever reason, are not; you’re just letting them move on as you inform them you’ve decided to move forward in another direction. I think it is a matter of professional self respect. But a word of caution, use a Take-Away only when you mean it. Faking it or using it as a ploy almost never helps. 

We all know the Take-Away Close; we’ve either used it or have been on the receiving end of it in our personal lives. Using personal relationships as a good analogy, some people get tired of being ignored, treated poorly or unappreciated and, as a result, they reach a point at which they’ll say, “enough, I’m done; I’m outa’ here”. What makes it powerful is they mean it, it’s not an attempt to get attention, they are walkin’. The response might be indifference, which only validates suspicions, or someone wakes up and takes notice. Either way they know better where they stand. On the other hand, what happens when someone talks and threatens but never really means it? Nobody believes it, or nobody takes their idle threat seriously. Either way they lose. 

If you are working and you have a reasonable concern before you conclude you will look for a new job as a solution, you should first meet with your boss to seek a mutually agreed solution. I always use the 3 strike rule. You’re not and shouldn’t be threatening, you just want to find a compromise suitable for all parties. Likewise, if you are pursuing a job and more than weeks pass since your last interview, the company is either a bureaucratic nightmare or they aren’t very interested. 

Whenever possible, the motto I apply to any business relationship I am seeking to build is one of “Shared Risk and Mutual Respect”, which is just a more formal application of the Golden Rule. In the hustle and bustle of the business world it can be forgiven that companies and hiring officials have a lot more going on than your application or situation at all times. But when you’ve exhausted all options, held up your end of the proposition, or the clock has run out beyond what is reasonable, there is no need for anger or vindictiveness; don’t be a victim with no self-respect. Nobody’s future hinges on just one opportunity. If you are met with inaction, dithering or indifference by a company you’ve been seeking out, if they aren’t interested, you can either forget about them and move on, or notify them and just walk away and go find one that is. 
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Walk Away Pt I

Sometimes, when hiring processes drag out and seem endless, perhaps their priorities or circumstances have changed. Perhaps it was never really a priority or there never was an opportunity - not really. Among the recruiters I know there is a cliché, which states time kills all deals. Meaning the longer the processes drag out, interest on one or both sides subsides. Some situations occasionally resurrect themselves, but when you’re waiting on the receiving end,  stuck in a stagnated process that is going nowhere, what can you do? 

Suppose you’ve already had at least one interview of some kind and, after a lengthy period of time, everything just stopped and you’re waiting and waiting and have heard nothing. At some point you are going to reach a level of frustration and think, “Enough is enough; I don’t care what the decision is I just want an answer, one way or the other.” Who knows, it all might be in your head and there could be good reasons why things have stalled. On the other hand, maybe you’ve been totally ‘dissed and it’s dead. In either case, it is fair to want and seek an answer and, if the company dropped the ball, you want closure one way of the other. 

I often suggest the use of sales skills applied to your job search efforts because, as people get tired of hearing me repeat over and over again, your resume is your marketing brochure and you are the product. Closing techniques should be an integral part of your job search and interview efforts. The Take-Away Close is the option of last resort and, as such, you should handle it with care. Used wisely it is helpful and powerful; used frivolously it will be counter productive and can be downright damaging to your efforts. So, if everything started out well and then grinds to a halt, you don’t know where you stand, and can’t seen to get any info or learn anything; when you reach a point of frustration and hopefully have other job leads to chase, walk away. But, of course, first let them know. Make an effort to contact whomever you spoke or met with and however you want to say it, tell them, “I have not been able to learn anything, so perhaps there is no urgency or interest. Although I would very much like to work with XYZ Company, please keep me on file but I will concentrate on other opportunities, thank you.” I understand this can be a very hard thing to do and some people might think I am nuts, but in situations where you are left hanging out there and a lot of time has passed – I’m talking a month or more - is there, and was there really an opportunity for you? Perhaps they made a selection and never bothered to tell you; maybe there is a hiring freeze and you didn’t get word. Perhaps a budget wasn’t approved and they are occupied with more pressing matters. Never mind the lack of courtesy, these things happen in business, they are not doing anything to you so don’t take it personally, but let go and move on. Who knows, they may just call you back, or conclude they are interested in you and explain what is going on – which is all you were trying to find out to begin with. One way to avoid having to make tough decisions like this is to have and keep generating activity for yourself; don’t stop pursuing opportunities because one company called you with interest. When you create for yourself other options, walking away from one is not as big a deal.

(Part II will be posted on Monday) 

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Loyal to a Fault

Loyalty to one’s employer is a commendable attribute and a worthy character trait. Loyalty has value but I would note it should never be given freely unless it is earned and, even then, it requires ongoing maintenance regardless of whether it concerns you personally or professionally. The workplace has changed a lot over the last few decades and company loyalty was something that was often assumed mutually between employers and employees. Our grandparents worked hard and, in exchange for their hard work, they received good pensions and plans that would see them through their retirement years. There was back then a basis for such allegiance and devotion to company. It seems as if it was a long time ago, doesn’t it? Since then I would suggest it isn’t the employees who’ve broken that bond but rather the other way around. Make no mistake, I am not anti-company or anti-corporate but I am a realist. 

Most who are actively seeking a job change find time to interview and pursue other opportunities in their free time, or they might take a half-day off from work or they come up with some kind of excuse to leave work and attend an interview, or arrange to interview after work. I have spoken on more than a few occasions with people who think it’s improper, or they feel tormented with pangs of guilt about actively looking for a job on company time. Therefore, it is a bit ironic because most people don’t think twice about how much time they waste in the office using Facebook or other productive personal online activities during the work day. So imagine my reaction when someone tells me for reasons of integrity they’re considering leaving their job in order to free themselves and focus on their job search, full-time. This is pretzel logic and more likely an attempt to rationalize leaving a place where they no longer want to be. Or they claim they want to take some well-deserved time off because once they start a new job, it will be a while before they can take any vacation or personal time off. 

Even in the best of times an average interview process from introduction to offer takes, on average, 10 – 12 weeks. But the trends are such that processes are taking much longer; companies are dragging their feet in making decisions, not to mention fewer jobs available. Not surprisingly, I know people who were going to take a break and then, all rested and ready, committed themselves to finding a new job – and a year later they are still looking and quite freaked out, as you can imagine. 

If you can help it and have any choice in the matter, never leave one job before having established another to which to transition. If you have a new job, make sure you really have it before tendering your resignation; in other words don’t resign before you have a mutually signed job offer, contract or whatever, and a firm start date. A mere verbal promise or assurance, is not a signed job offer.

And what about your conscience, what about diverting time to look for a new job? Regardless of whether you are actively or passively considering new opportunities, everyone has a job description and as long as you are performing your job in a sufficient manner, meeting or exceeding expectations, you have nothing to worry or feel guilty about.
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