Thursday, January 31, 2013

When the “System” Breaks Down, Pt.II


Even in my own profession the landscape has changed, most in the recruitment / employment / personnel market niche have also (d)evolved with the times, relying on Internet-sourced piles of resumes, spending productive time sifting through a hundred or so digital resumes they might receive each day hoping for that golden nugget of a resume to match a very generic and non-descript, HR job description. Not all, but many then compete with each other like a bucket full of minnows fighting for bread crumbs to get their pile of resumes into a company with whom they are working. It is curious that some of those folks still call themselves recruiters; more like scavengers (ouch, that’s not gonna get me much love). Like many job seekers, many recruiters have become more reliant on keystrokes and, as a result, lose the interpersonal people skills necessary to be an effective recruiter. Oh, how it must have felt during the dark ages to see the ruins of a Roman aqueduct and realize it represented skills and knowledge lost – okay, so I am exaggerating a bit.  

The point is the current model is increasingly less than optimum for neither companies nor those seeking employment. It clunks, it coughs, lurches along and functions - but barely; or another way to describe it – it’s operating at 90% smoke and only 10% horsepower. I know a lot of senior managers at companies who are scratching their heads wondering why piles of online-sourced resumes are not resulting in effective hires. It’s rather Kafkaesque and it would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating to all but those who thrive on bureaucracy as a means of job security. I’d like to suggest it is due to the fact that they’ve left the people out of the equation! However, within some board rooms they are beginning to realize the current hiring methods are not all they are cracked up to be. And newer and improved personality profile software for example or some other tech fad method isn’t the solution either. The correct medicine for all involved - and you too, is getting back to basics, focusing on interpersonal communication skills but enhanced with some time-saving tech; not the other way around, as it is currently, and leaving everyone somewhat unsatisfied and frustrated. I personally can’t complain, company managers continue to call people like me, who still know how to identify, attract and recruit those who aren’t reading their adverts.  

(Part Three in conclusion will be posted on Monday) 

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Monday, January 28, 2013

When the “System” Breaks Down, Pt.I

Ever have the craaazy idea of actually walking into a company to hand carry your resume and apply for a job in person? Go ahead; just try to walk into a medium or large-sized company like this in the hope of making contact with an actual human being past the reception desk. What decade do you think this is, anyway? It’s likely they won’t even bother sending out a junior HR person to at least patronize you I mean, come on, after all it’s 2013 - nobody wants to actually talk to you. Most of the time you’ll be stopped in your tracks and instructed to check the website and “submit” (I hate that word) your resume online. I don’t work that way, so why should you? Have you noticed that Human Resources has become anything but human? In the present era, the department that used to be the first step and the sieve through which interested applicants go is increasingly faceless and insulated? They don’t want to talk to you, just who do you think you are, go back home and follow the rules, apply online; don’t call us, we’ll call you is the crystal clear message. The bigger the company the more bureaucratic (screwed up) they are. For those who think push-button, or rather I should say one-click solutions, to attract and hire people is the wave of the future, where are your roast beef and mashed potato pills? Which Jetson cartoon character are you, George, Jane, Judy or Elroy? (For my friends and readers in Europe, look’em up on Wikipedia for context) Not even Astro the dog is as obedient as we’re now supposed to be, yet these are the methods we’re expected to follow.  

The human factor in hiring has been vanishing since the Internet became a crutch to avoid actually meeting applicants one-on-one. For the sake of expediency, hiring processes rely way too much on digital methods and screening tools intended to save time. There is nothing wrong with funneling applicants and resumes online, but there is a trend of eliminating first-round introductory meetings, replaced in some cases with personality profiles. Don’t worry, the software will tell them who is worthy of meeting. Ultimately, generic one-size-fits-all solutions hammer and mold people into little square pegs meant only for square holes, so when companies say they want innovators but primarily use these methods, it’s a contradiction. So it’s ironic when I read that many large and well-known companies claim they can’t find qualified workers. They are half-right because there are skills shortages. Some of it has to do with the education system, or because certain skills are being neglected since so many prefer to be a lawyer, doctor or a shrink, just like on TV – even if the market is already saturated with too many of those, thus driving down those big incomes everyone dreams of, but that’s a topic for another day. Consequently, might it also be the result of the current faceless, nameless, generic, plain vanilla, everyone’s the same, non-descript, de-humanizing processes we are all expected to follow when looking for a job? Sorry, but I am not a fan of hiring systems meant to spay and neuter productive people, denying them of their ambition and initiative. If you identify with anything I am saying, and – is anybody looking - if you dare to nod in agreement, what can you do about it?  

(Part two of three will be posted on Thursday) 

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Frequent Complaint about Recruiters, Personnel and Employment Agencies

Do you know the most common complaint job seekers have of recruiters, employment agencies and other third party consultants, who are in the business of connecting job applicants and companies seeking to hire? It is that after the initial conversation when they were so enthusiastic about helping you, and so much so that you sent them your resume, you can’t reach them or worse yet, they won’t call you back. It’s frustrating and, frankly, too many over promise and under deliver. They should have better managed your expectations, and  maybe they did, but you didn’t hear that part. Of course they should not mislead or make any promises before they learn more about you. However, you bear some of the blame if you so quickly and willingly fall under the trance of anyone you don’t know in exchange for a few unfounded assurances. The bottom line is recruiters are capitalists and they are driven by money because most of them get paid as a direct result of a successful candidate placement with a company, and not according to how many people they meet or speak with. So from the many, they might present a few and ultimately place one. Don’t take it personally and don’t be naïve, many people are helped by recruiters and they may indeed be able to help you, but don’t assume results nor be sucked in, having listened only to what you wanted to hear.  

Sometimes it’s the reverse and I have been contacted by people who tell me, “I am going to make you a lot of money”. What they are implying is that, as a candidate, if I represent and present them to my client, they are so good and so talented they will get hired and, thus, I will benefit. Hey, if they can prove it good and fine, but I’ve been at this for over 20 years and so when I hear that shtick I smile and think to myself, “Thanks buddy, but I’m not looking to buy a used car today.” Ironically, those I most like to assist and represent are the people who need my help the least. I am motivated and inspired to work with those who know in their heart and mind they’ll find a job with or without my help, but they choose for a variety of reasons to seek my representation. Yes, suitable skills and experience are necessary but more than that, it is their attitude, drive and confidence in themselves that is tangible and clear to see. 

However, this blog entry isn’t so much about how someone else can or should help you. It is about how much you can or choose to help yourself. You see, unless you make it your solitary effort, asking for and receiving help from others in addition to your own efforts can be a smart move. It has the potential to increase your options, to cast a wider net; it’s a multiplier but you need to be discriminating about with whom you work, and that calls for responsible effort above and beyond what you are already doing to help yourself. Because asking others, no, relying on other people can be a mistake and adversely affect you. Too many people are choosing to rely on or turn to others for many of the things they can do themselves. There are not many people willing or qualified to speak on your behalf, as your advocate, as strongly as you can. It’s counterproductive to cling to the hope someone else will deliver to you salvation. Furthermore, all our attention spans are short so many people expect instant results and if they don’t see success in their first few tries, they throw up their hands in disgust. If you aren’t committed to helping yourself or are unprepared to dig in for the long haul – if success takes longer than you thought, how can you expect someone else to get you a satisfactory result if you won’t invest some sweat equity of your own. So what about you, how many times can you be knocked down, get back up again and keep trying? If it’s so easy for someone to give up, maybe they don’t need a job so badly after all. By the way, the answer to the question should be, “as many times as it takes.”   

The primary motivation for both my book and this blog is to help people to learn or rediscover just how powerful their own efforts can be if they choose to develop their abilities. Marshalling the assistance of others is fine but you can do yourself everything they can do for you. I also recognize the majority of people will choose not to summon their innate abilities to help themselves because, for many, that would require them to accept their failures as their own. Most people just want to go along to get along, average or less than is good enough. On the other hand, while they choose not to put out an extra effort and you do, who gains the advantage?

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Change Happens

The concept of change scares the hell out of some people. Many of us like our routines, and we don’t like unplanned or unanticipated surprises, or anything that upsets the status quo. But change does and will happen. Actually, I have observed that the people who attempt to exert the most effort to control all aspects of their lives, and the lives of everyone around them, are much more easily freaked out, than if they just stepped back and took on their problems as they occur, like the rest of us. These are sometimes the same people who automatically assume that change always portends something negative, and rarely do they consider change may actually portend something better. As a result, we get the very outcomes we expect whether we mean to or not, good or bad, our perceptions will make it so. If you’re negative you’ll reap lots of negative stuff. If you are positive it won’t be so bad. Our perception is reality. If you seek a bad result you’ll certainly find it. 

Most of us accept change as a fact of life, and a few of us actually look forward to change. Some of us get downright bored if things remain the same for too long. I used to fear change, but it’s like the cliché of a glass of water being half-full, or half-empty. Change rarely portends only dark certainty but, more often, new possibilities, some good and some bad, but one never knows. Do we have setbacks, yes, we all experience them and to use yet another cliché, you may need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. Once again, it is all about how we choose to view it. One thing is sure, new circumstances keep us on our toes, and perhaps we are at our best when we have periodic changes in the scenery of our lives. How many opportunities are missed for fear of change? Your frame of mind will make a big difference; are you open to a new circumstance or will you fight it every step of the way? Turning negatives into positives is what we do in life. Taking a situation that holds others back, and making it work in your favor, is what sets you apart from others waiting for someone or something to do for them what they seem unable to do for themselves. If you freak out over the reality of change you are going to have to get over it if you want to move ahead. I would suggest it’s not so much change that scares us, as the worry about being caught unprepared to react to it when it comes. 

If you are going through a period during which you are questioning what is ahead for you, who knows, you may later look back and realize this was an exciting time and you were more alert, sharper edged and at the top of your game, prepared and ready for your next step and whatever life throws at you.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

So You Want to Be a Manager

If you are not yet a manager and aspire to be, think about it before assuming this career track is going to be, in reality, what you imagined. Do you know what you are getting yourself into and are you ready to step up to the responsibilities required of a good manager? 

I admire young professionals who aspire to be promoted to a management position. For most people it is a logical career track. If you have performed well and regularly develop your professional skills, it is likely you will not be satisfied unless you are also advancing your career, so promotion into management is generally expected. Toward that goal, most professionals seek advanced and management training whenever they can get it. Some companies offer and provide management training, and some do not. With cost cutting measures that confront company budgets, even larger companies are reducing the training options available. Whether or not management training is provided by an employer does not define the effectiveness of a person's ability to lead and manage people. What does make the difference most often is the attitude and motivation of a manager. A new manager goes from being one of a team to becoming the leader of a team. How this is handled is important and will have a long-lasting effect for all involved. There are those who try to remain friends and seek to interact as though little has changed. It doesn’t take long for them to find that strategy does not work. Others do the complete opposite and detach themselves from their former co-workers and think being authoritarian is a better approach. So, you can easily see a balance must be struck and each situation is different; therefore, strictly relying on book learning without actually developing people skills isn’t going to make it any easier.   

Whether during my professional career or years previously spent in the military, I have witnessed with elevated interest what exemplifies a good manager. I think that after many years interacting with thousands of people at different levels possessing many different skills, working with hundreds of companies and managers at all professional  levels as a consultant since 1992, I could argue that I have a measure of expertise on the subject. Frankly, I have little interest in the academic perspective of management and leadership because bookwork and studies can help to prepare you, but it is what you do with the knowledge and the character of the individual that matters most. It’s your ability to deal with people that differentiates a leader from a technocrat. A skillfully balanced combination of both is best, but given the choice, I would rather see a person who had good people skills and leadership abilities than someone predominantly steeped in academic book knowledge. 

But there is another problem that I see too often. People who seek a position of authority, or those who have been selected, sometimes assume management is defined by telling people what to do. In other words, they want the title of manager, they like the increased pay, but they are either overwhelmed by the responsibility, or they have a naive perception that ordering people around equates to leadership and responsible management. Their business card may have the title, but is that enough, of course not. Yet, I am aware of people like this who think a promotion and an office with a window is all that is necessary and voila, they are a manager - why - because their business card says so. I have seen too many who hide behind their job title but, for some reason, they are either unwilling or incapable of managing the people they’ve been tasked to lead. Why is this? 

I have never understood what I view as an obsession some have for gaining a higher level, grade or position, without sufficient forethought of the responsibility a company has entrusted to them. Furthermore, some people can have good training and still be totally inept with how they deal with people. Perhaps they have forgotten what it was like to be a subordinate, or possibly their ego has clouded their perception. Unfortunately, some individuals simply have an inflated view of their own people skills. I know this addresses a supposed small minority of managers, but we all know, or have known people like this which means it is too common. So let us assume some of those inherently bad managers are beyond help and, frankly, they don’t recognize they need any help. In such a situation, subordinates who report to that person can only hang on until they are eventually liberated when management realizes their mistake. For anyone who wants to improve their management abilities, Fortune 500 Company sponsored management training is not necessary to improve oneself. All that is necessary is a conscience and a will to learn and improve. Most aspects of management are simple common sense and we always hear about what makes a good manager but it's also worthy to note and expose substandard performance. I have found most poor managers fall into these categories:

·         Selfish – They are only concerned with their own situation and if they do show concern for their employees, it is usually only to protect themselves and their own status.

·        Unprepared – This does not refer to formal training. Instead, I am speaking of people who have a false perception of what they thought management would entail. They are shocked when they realize it is not only about barking orders from their office. The concept of leadership is something they did not anticipate.

·        Unwilling – They resist making the commitment to do what is necessary to elevate themselves and their skills to a satisfactory level.

·         Incapable – Some people are simply not capable of handling managerial responsibilities.

·         Misled – Perhaps the position was misrepresented by the employer.

I could make a longer list and perhaps you would suggest additional examples, but let's move on. If you aspire to having management responsibilities, is it really necessary to say you should be reading and preparing yourself? It is the same for someone who is already a manager and feels overwhelmed. If you are a manager and your boss is doing little to help you to develop, there are so many resources available that nobody has an excuse not to improve oneself or find helpful information. I have a few books that are my favorites, but anyone can do an Internet search, where you can find hundreds of articles and book titles.  

As for my advice, I will say only that if you have an actual interest in the people for whom you are responsible, these criticisms are not meant for you. If you are not only concerned with yourself but, in reality, you truly care about the people for whom you are responsible, as well as the company for which you work, you will no doubt improve. Your first position of responsibility over other employees can be rewarding. However, one should never forget that regardless of how far you may rise within an organization, your decisions impact not only business, but affect others – it is an awesome responsibility. One should never jump to the decision declaring interest in becoming a manager without thinking ahead to what it means to your career and those affected. Be careful what you wish for, be prepared, and never stop developing yourself and your skills.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

When a Thank You Letter is Not Just for Saying “Thank You”

Here’s a tip if you want an edge against the others, who may be competing for the same job, and all are doing the same old stuff. Do you think sending a Thank You letter is only a polite gesture after your interview? Ha, guess again! 

Some people think sending a Thank You letter following an interview is simply a courtesy or polite gesture. It can be more than that and another powerful tool during the interview process to help demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. It doesn’t have to be more than a few lines and certainly shouldn’t be more than a page in length. Of course, the first and last sentences say ‘thank you’, but the content between is especially useful and can act as an additional opportunity to communicate information to the hiring official or person(s) with whom you’ve recently met. Have you ever left an interview and thought of something you wish you had said if you had another opportunity? Or, maybe there was something you would like to have stated differently or additional information that, in retrospect, would have been helpful to you during your interview. Perhaps there was a specific fact you failed to remember or wish you could correct. Well, the Thank You letter represents that extra opportunity. 

Additionally, your closing sentence, like the first, says "thank you" but you should add a slightly assumptive tone. I am not a fan of flimsy, weak, half hearted or, what I refer to as wimp words. So instead of closing with something that lacks confidence, as many people do, when they say “I hope you might possibly consider me for the position” or “I hope to maybe hear from you”, I suggest you instead project confidence and be slightly assumptive and say “I look forward to seeing you again soon”, or “I look forward to our next meeting”. 

Your letter should ideally be emailed within 24 hours of your interview, or the Monday following a Friday interview, so you still have a fresh memory of what you said, wish you would have said or anything you’d like to add. This swift follow-up timing also demonstrates that you are decisive and act deliberately. You can also copy addresses of any other people with whom you interviewed on that particular day. If you did not receive a business card and, therefore, don’t have their email address, call the company reception desk and request it. Reception will not and should not transfer your call, but they are usually willing to give you an email address, if you have the name of the person you want to contact. If you met multiple persons, there’s no need to send a separate letter to each. You can address the letter to the person who was your primary contact and did most of the talking rather than the highest ranking. You can copy the others. 

Some people make the mistake of thinking they should be aloof or they should play hard to get when interviewing, but this is a mistake in most cases. Companies want people who show interest in joining their particular organization. If your Thank You letter is sincere and polite, it will never hurt your chances and, therefore, you have nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain by again repeating your interest. Also consider this: I have been involved in processes when there may have been a more highly-qualified, but over-confident individual compared to a slightly less-qualified candidate, who was also interviewing for the same role. While the more-qualified but cocky person may have assumed they could sit back and relax, considering a Thank You letter as unnecessary, the slightly less-qualified but more interested and enthusiastic person moved ahead in the process, as a result of a small thing such as a Thank You letter. I liken it somewhat to Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Do this step and make it count for you. 

The job market is very competitive and is progressively getting more so. I suggest you do not take anything for granted and use every tool available to you, so you can be confident that, regardless of the result, you made your best possible effort and capitalized on your every option. 

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tell’em What You’re Made Of

How does one exude self-confidence without appearing arrogant or conceited? It’s simple really, but first let’s put it into context. When you attend a first real interview, I’m not talking about a telephone screening or a cattle-call and assembly-line assessment center. Instead, the first real interview when the purpose for the meeting is to consider you for whatever role you’ve applied. During the interview you will be asked, “…tell me about yourself.” We’re not going to talk about how to present yourself, that’s a whole other subject unto itself. I want to focus instead on what to share when presenting yourself, your experience and qualifications. 

In the U.S., most Americans have no problem talking about themselves or their accomplishments. We Americans belong to an inherently competitive culture where striving to improve oneself or attain goals is common. However, since 2001 I live in Europe and as a second generation Czech – American living and working for 12 years in the nation from where my family emigrated, I understand my heritage and have re-learned traits and sensitivities that are European. While there are many similarities, there are of course differences I respect, admire and celebrate; the world is already becoming far too global, which is just another way of saying generic. I prefer to celebrate differences as a good thing and that which makes us individuals. 

Interview an American and, on average, they have no problem telling you about themselves and their accomplishments. Europeans are less open and I have run into many who regard such self-portraits akin to self-promotion, as if it is a bad thing when interviewing for a new job. Regardless of from where a person is, there are a lot of people who are shy or reticent to talk about themselves and their career accomplishments. But everyone should recognize during the interview process you’ve got to tell the interviewer not only about what your responsibilities and qualifications are, but key to your candidacy is what you’ve accomplished with your qualifications; how did you handle your responsibilities? Did you rise to the challenge? If you don’t or are unwilling to tell them, how will they know or make an informed decision about you for a job you are seeking? Many think if it’s on their resume a hiring official will see it, but that is weak at best and pathetic at worst. Do you know when most interviewers review your resume? You might be surprised to know it’s usually about 5 minutes before they shake your hand at the start of the meeting, and often it is during the interview. The reality is that it’s up to you to get them to wake up and take notice of you; to show how you stand apart from others seeking the same job. It’s ultimately on you to demonstrate why you are the best person for the job compared to everyone else. Are you one of those who mistakenly hope a piece of paper will do that for you? 

Okay, I recognize the primary question from most people isn’t about the need to present the information, that’s understood, but what information and to what degree? For the how, as mentioned in the first paragraph, you’ll have to watch for a future blog entry when I will address the best manner I know of how to present yourself and your accomplishments to a potential employer. Or refer to my book. 

First, any successes or accomplishments you would share with an interviewer should be directly related to a current or past job position. Second, it must be somehow verifiable, you’ve got to be able to prove anything you point to with documentation of some kind or be able to produce a reference of someone willing to back up your claim. Documentation can be a performance review, a company news letter, an award, a company stack ranking list related to office, district, region, etc., listing your standing compared with others, such as what most salespeople receive on a regular periodic basis. It could be a press release within which you are noted or listed or a certificate of accomplishment. Whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to prove your claim if asked. Third, and what will make the most impact, is to ask yourself for what you have done which you are most proud? Regardless of whether it’s a short or a long list, choose the best among them. However, if you don’t have anything to offer, don’t manufacture fiction. 

Now work on it, write it down, refine it, and rehearse it. Be able to speak with confidence and with some brevity. Condense your points down to making brief but impactful points. You can always elaborate if asked to back up your claims. Tell’em what you’re made of, while most others are talking about what they were already supposed to be doing, reciting their current or past job descriptions, you’ll be talking about what you’ve actually done.
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Your Value in the Eyes of the Interviewer

When you are searching for a job, it’s common sense to pursue more than one opportunity at a time in order to increase your odds and to not lose time if one or another you’re chasing falls through. So it’s conceivable you might end up juggling more than one interview process.  

Many think it’s not a good idea to tell an interviewer about other opportunities they are simultaneously pursuing. I suggest it’s not a bad idea to make hiring officials aware there are others who are also interested in you. Before I represent any candidate I ask and expect they will tell me of other processes with which they are involved, or have been involved, during the last 6 months. For me it is simple, I don’t want to waste time trying to introduce them to a company that already has their resume or to whom they’ve already spoken. I also want to know if they are near a favorable conclusion with any of their activities, so I know how to delegate my own activities on their behalf. If they are about to receive an offer, what is the point of getting another company excited just to learn a few days later another offer has been accepted and the job seeker is no longer available.  

Conversely, when I speak with a company, after learning they are indeed interested in a person whom I represent, I will tell them, “Oh, by the way, on a short list of companies yours is one of the organizations in which they have an interest, although I know they are speaking with another of your competitors, who’s also shown interest in them.” Or, I may share with a hiring manager with whom I am working and who is interviewing someone I represent, that this particular candidate is in a second or later interview stage with another company. It may seem as though I am playing a game by teasing the hiring manager, but I am not. It’s meant to give the hiring manager the chance to determine their level of interest, so they can choose what action to take and how quickly they’ll need or want to move.  

Early in my recruiting career, there were occasions when a person I was representing to one company accepted an offer from another. After the fact, when I called my client to inform them a candidate in whom they were interested had chosen another position, I was most often told, “That’s unfortunate, Michael, I wish we had known, so we could have sped up the process or done something.” 

I understand it is not likely you are going to tell an interviewer about all of your job search activities or provide a status report; no, clearly it’s none of their business. However, there is nothing wrong with being honest to a limited degree, if you are reaching a critical stage with another company with whom you are also interviewing. It’s not a mistake to say to a hiring official, “I appreciate the opportunity for this interview, I am interested in this job and your company, but I think it is fair to tell you I am also talking to some other companies, and one of them has invited me to a final interview.” Yes, this can be considered a take-away close, but it is simply the truth. There is no need to, and I suggest you should not, share the name or details of the other company; just making them aware of your status is enough. I would, however, caution you that if it isn’t true, don’t fake it. As for your presentation, you are doing it from a perspective of neither desperation nor vanity, just as a calm matter of fact, an afterthought.   

It’s also not a bad thing for hiring managers to be aware you may have other opportunities. Often, for whatever reason, they may assume your interest in their company means you are not talking with anyone else. If this is the case, they may take their good old time until they are awakened to the fact that they’re not the only game in town. While they were dragging their feet, you haven’t been sitting and waiting outside their door like an obedient terrier. In reality, you’ve been doing what good professionals and action-oriented people do - investigating other opportunities.  

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

When is it Time for a Change?

Here we are already in the New Year, 2013. It’s during this time when people reflect on the past year and look to the year ahead. Many people, heavy with guilt from over-indulgence, resolve to start a diet and get back into shape and subsequently health clubs are packed with new members for a few weeks before most settle back into their habits. People resolve to do a lot of things and, among the subjects on their short list, career considerations usually rank near the top. If you are new to my blog, I don’t do fear and self-loathing, nope, not here. I don’t conduct pity parties. If you prefer the paths of least resistance and lowered expectations, settling for whatever crumbs are handed to you, this ain’t the place for you. Call me a nut but I prefer to champion the cause of self-respect and individuality. Frankly, I tire of society’s one-size-fits-all logic and generic solutions for everyone. 

Granted, there are a lot of people out of work, under-employed and many more who are just plain nervous. I have empathy but, at some point, whether it is now or later you’re going to resolve to make changes. If you are employed and have been in place for a while, perhaps you feel your career has stagnated and you’re considering making a change, but when should you make your move or how long is long enough in one place before looking for something new? I am not concerning myself so much with the question of why, that’s up to you as an individual. It could be many things, no upward mobility, no further career development where you are, an uncertain future for your company or your own role in the organization. Maybe it is a simple matter of boredom or the lack of a challenge. But let’s focus on the question of when to make a change?  

At the shorter end of the scale, 2 years. Anything less and you’ll need to be able to adequately explain to any potential hiring official your reason for change. Choosing to make a change should result in career advancement and not a setback. The shorter the time spent with an employer the more you can expect to be scrutinized by an interviewer. Consider your resume as a career map of sorts as you chart your course. If you are young and as yet have had only a couple jobs with short tenure, it’s no big deal and is to be expected. However, if you’ve had 7 different employers in 11 years, for example, unless you are a contractor or a project consultant, you’ll have some explaining to do and being a job hopper is hard to explain away. On the other hand, if you’ve had little choice in your circumstances the truth is easier to explain and justify; during the last decade and especially the last few years it’s been quite a roller coaster ride for most people.  

On the oopposite end of the scale and to those I really want to address, when is the right time, how long is too long in one place? If you’ve been with the same organization for 6, 7 or more years you need to step back and take a look at where you are going. Stay longer if you wish, but there is a general guideline and sweet spot of between 6 and 10 years. It is during this period when making a move is a good idea. Beyond that your career options diminish and you, in the eyes of potential employers, become stale and no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer. I recall there was a study done many years ago - I think it was in the 1970’s - that termed people who had occupied roles for 12 years or more as “gray men”. When people spend too much time in one place, they become not only less desirable to new employers but they also are less adaptable to environmental changes. In general terms, it’s like the saying about being unable to teach old dogs new tricks. Is it true, are there those who would disagree? Certainly. Hindsight is 20/20 and I speak with many who wish they had made a choice to move sooner than they did – or had to. In my vocabulary “Regret” is a dirty word.  

More than ever, perception is reality in our world. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve been stable and solid in their careers, only to be disheartened after they learn their longevity in a role or a position actually turned out to be a disadvantage. Too little time in one place is a disadvantage, but so can being too long in the same place. In the modern workplace, continually developing your career skills is a necessity and so, too, is making calculated and willful change. What one may call security, another may call being stuck in a rut. No matter how comfortable you are today, you’ve got to occasionally look in the mirror and say, “It’s time for a change”. That said, each individual needs to consider what’s best for them and their family. I am not trying to over-simplify important decisions, but seek to prompt you to apply some basic logic to the emotional mix. If you are a good, accomplished and dedicated employee, regardless of unemployment rates or trends, know this; there are companies out there with needs that are hiring every day and they might be looking for someone just like you.  

If you prefer to cling to bad news as a rationale for doing nothing, so be it. But you can also choose optimism, which is how I intend to start off my year, so how about you?  Whatever you choose, may I suggest a constructive New Years resolution; challenge yourself this year, dare to do what might seem a little bit uncomfortable if it can help you to advance yourself or your career. If, indeed, perception is reality then in 2013, make your own luck. Best wishes and may you have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

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