Monday, January 27, 2014

The Irony of the Employment Process

It’s no surprise to me that many people are becoming more and more frustrated with the conventional tools available for their job-search efforts, which are predominantly internet and digital-related activities. It matters little how many online job boards you find, whether it’s five or fifty, you’re not going to find more jobs, just the same jobs and job descriptions on the various websites. One job may be posted on multiple boards but it’s still one job position posted at many places. Invariably once people realize this they can become quite frustrated, throwing up their hands saying, “but there aren’t any jobs out there!” It’s a fact that a lot of available jobs are not posted online, which means all that time spent online will not get you closer to any of those not listed. Whenever and however you do it, you must pick up the phone or knock on a door, which terrifies a lot of people who’ve never had to do it. Some overcome this and make their way; many others prefer to sit, wait and complain.
But you want to know something ironic -- companies also have a great deal of difficulty finding, attracting and hiring people for key positions; they have the same problem but from the opposite perspective! It’s true, hiring managers and HR are often just as frustrated and feel just as helpless in finding qualified people to fill open positions as you, the job seeker, is about finding opportunities. Sure, they check their own database, seek internal referrals but if a manager asks HR to go out and find for them a certain kind of person with the traits and qualifications they seek, HR will tell them they must await responses from jobs posted online. They may be internal recruiters working within HR, but they aren’t recruiting, they’re just posting online and then sit around with fingers crossed. Only a few out of a hundred or more resumes they’ve received actually fit the job description and need. That’s not very efficient is it? How do I know this, because a fast-growing part of my business are companies hiring me to consult and teach their personnel how to locate, seek out and attract qualified professionals of all types. So think about it, job seekers are limited by what they find available online and companies are limited by what they can find online.
So my point is to illustrate the depth to which ability has devolved. For you, the job seeker, this is a golden opportunity for those who know how to go out and find the jobs not listed online, while others are elbowing each other over what they can find online at the usual websites. When I see an aimless crowd all moving in one direction, I go another way and find an alternate route to my destination. Online methods may be convenient but are becoming less and less effective all the time. Believe it or not, a lot of positions out there are going unfilled for whatever reasons. Going old-school in your job search efforts is essential; learn or relearn, get comfortable with picking up the telephone and going to an office, try to make an appointment, sit and wait in reception to hand deliver your resume and get their business card. These steps stand out compared with soulless emails or lifeless resumes. Meeting people and shaking hands will get you out there, where you need to be and not at your kitchen table. No one single method is the silver-bullet solution, so don’t limit yourself to one primary activity. Keep doing the online stuff but not exclusively.

Here’s one tip I will share with you today; look online and when you ID a job and company you have interest in, don’t email your resume. Look at the company website or if need be call into the company with the goal of learning who the boss is for that particular position or section in the company. Then seek to meet that person, call their admin assistant and try to contact them with the intention of either sending your resume directly or, better yet, seek to hand deliver the resume. It’s not a waste of time even if all you do is have two minutes to shake hands and place your resume in their hands -- make the effort. If they refer you back to HR, try to do the same but now, at the very least, you were referred back and can drop a name. And don’t expect they will welcome you with open arms, it isn’t personal, its business; get over yourself. Get used to being told no. If you get knocked down, get up off your butt, dust yourself off and keep going – that’s how you take charge and you learn a hell of a lot along the way, especially self-sufficiency. Being resourceful and independent means just that. Learn it, live it, love it. Learn or regain these abilities and you’ll find some measure of success – as well as more self-confidence, and likely shorten the period of time you’re looking for work. I know, you can cover more territory online, is that right? Maybe, but if you have been looking for a while and not meeting with substantive results, try it my way. Online access and tools are meant to provide you with more options, they were never meant to be the only option.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

What are You Made Of?

I ask this question because I am of the opinion that, when faced with any opportunity that involves overcoming some obstacles for it to realize success, many people will choose not to act and some will make excuses if it might inconvenience them. They want things on their terms and if nothing happens they blame everything and everyone else. I don’t know many people who’ve achieved success and didn’t face and overcome adversity of some kind.
I recognize that some market sectors are flat and some of those are fading away, but I still argue there are opportunities available for those who are willing to make a real effort and have a plan of action – and then follow through with it. I haven’t an ounce of pity for those who know they need to do more but choose not to do so. Surfing the web and emailing resumes is not what I call effort, I don’t care what anyone else says. We’ve legitimized laziness by becoming over-reliant by way of convenience.
It is somewhat of a cliché when someone of an older generation suggests that when they were young they perhaps “had to walk a half-mile in knee deep snow to catch a school bus”, as an example, to which the youngsters roll their eyes and sigh. We’ve all heard stuff like this, well, here’s one worthy of sharing.
A story I had learned about from a mentor and someone I admire, concerned an interview he’d sought for a regional sales representative position. The company was then, and remains today, among the Fortune 500. The interview required travel from Chicago to New York City at the company HQ in 1961. However, a snowstorm forced his flight to divert and land in Pittsburgh, PA. Under the circumstances, then as now, it would have been acceptable to ask for a postponement to reschedule another day. But no, upon arrival in Pittsburgh he boarded a train and continued to New York. When he arrived at Grand Central Terminal he found that not even the New York City taxis were running and most businesses were shut down, however, he continued to his destination on foot. When he arrived, only a few minutes late, he found there was nearly no one there but a security guard. As fate would have it, the personnel (HR) manager was in the office, and so, the interview took place. He got the job. But consider this; was he hired due to his qualifications? Or was he hired because he made the effort, which I contend is a reflection of character; after all, it was for a sales job that requires resolve in the face of objections. Likely it was a combination of both and the resolve and determination to be there despite the obstacles likely made an impact on the hiring manager. Today, more than 50 years later we have tools to make our lives much easier in so many ways. We have access to resources like never before to give us more options to aid our efforts. Fifty years ago many people would not have made the same effort; far fewer would today, and therein lies part of the problem. Lots of people want a great job, but few are willing to invest the extra effort.
I meet people of all types from different backgrounds, who don’t have to be told or asked to make more of an effort, they just do it without being cajoled, pushed or prompted to go that extra mile to demonstrate why they are the best choice to hire as compared with others. But I also see an increasing number of people who don’t and won’t and then complain about how tough it is to find work; rather embracing defeatism. Standing apart and being different in a positive manner is exactly what is helpful and more notable now than ever. And in my capacity I know, because hiring managers tell me, I see and hear their reactions when they meet someone who is qualified and goal oriented, laser-focus deliberate in their intent and not just going through the motions. Hiring managers stand up and take notice. I meet extraordinary people all the time. In reality it is not a big leap to go from average to excellent, it actually doesn’t take that much more effort if you resolve to do so.
So what are you made of? If you want to up your game are you making an extra effort to increase your own chances, to improve interviewing skills in order to get a little closer to your goals, or just making excuses and letting the world hand you whatever comes along?
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Monday, January 13, 2014

Over Reliance on Social Media and Resumes

If you look around, most advice blogs, columns and articles related to employment issues all pretty much look the same, don’t they? They imply that if you have a resume written or formatted in a certain way; if you increase and perfect your social media presence / activity then you too can attain the job you seek. I think those who perpetuate these methods themselves don’t know how to really go out and look for a job. Their suggestions are in large part hollow, suggesting you try one thing and if it didn’t work you must not have done it correctly, or, if you did just a bit more of the same activity, you’d see results…Bulls--t! Sorry for the language but someone has to call it out for what it is.
The things to which they are referring are tools, useful tools but only tools. And even a tool as basic as a hammer in the hands of an operator who does not know what they are doing will make a lot of noise and appear busy but isn’t accomplishing much. I also contend that social media, in general terms, is already growing passé and mundane. Asking someone to be your friend online on a networking site will not get you a job, it requires a hell of a lot more. People place far too much reliance on these fads; no different than looking for that new diet pill, special herb or revolutionary but obscure fruit from some corner of the world, and other assorted miracles that will help you lose weight and be healthier. It’s the snake oil of our time, these claims that success can be yours too; and it’s only a mouse click away!
So what happens when you don’t realize success from these activities and what of those who perpetuate this kind of advice? What would they say, “you didn’t do it right, you should invest your time making adjustments and just keep doing more of the same”? Or one might think, “Hmm, maybe if I use a different photo for my online profile and resume I’ll have better luck…I need a new selfie, I wasn’t smiling in the other one”. Or “Maybe I should email more resumes and join more social networking pages, I guess I didn’t do it right…” When you read it like this it sounds a little silly and simplistic, doesn’t it. Yet this is what most people are doing and then act surprised when they get nowhere. Sure, some people succeed with these methods when you consider the sheer number of people out there doing the same thing. Most everyone wins in Vegas once and as I like to say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
A well-constructed resume is necessary and social media exposure is helpful, both have a place in your efforts, but it is the matter of proportionality that I question and, yes, ridicule. If the majority of their efforts are handled in just such a manner it is no wonder many are so frustrated. Furthermore, people have become so reliant on these easier options they no longer know any other way, and not only can they not find themselves a job, but when they sit before a hiring manager, they no longer know what to do or say.
So what about you? As I write this blog entry there is an old song playing in my head that illustrates my thoughts about relying too much on methods that don’t actually require you to do anything, let’s see:
…In the year 5555,
Your arms hangin’ limp at your sides,
Your legs got nothin’ to do,
Some machine’s doin’ that for you…
Somehow I don’t think we’ll need to wait until 5555 as many have already lost the ability to do things for themselves.
All those faux efforts you may be making mean little if you fail to learn and first develop your rudimentary job search skills and, more important, your interview abilities. If you need further proof of the need to do more, i.e., getting back to the basics, on CNN’s “State of the Union” program of Sunday, January 5th of this new year, a top government advisor told the host there are now three people for each job opening; a 3-to-1 ratio; did you get that, for every job there are potentially three people competing for it. And as many readers of this blog are not in the U.S., unemployment rates are likewise high in most nations at the moment. So, do you still want to rely upon the same online activity everyone else is utilizing or do you recognize the need to do something more? Continue to utilize social media, but it is a costly mistake to rely on it as your primary means of searching for a job in the current economic environment. Yes, craft an effective resume but develop the skills to not only defend your resume claims but to impress the interviewer in person, beyond what a flimsy piece of paper says about you.
No doubt, what I suggest requires effort, which is why most people don’t do it. But if you’re interested in helping yourself the archives of this blog and my book provide lots of strategies and tips. If you want to pursue success you have a choice, do something more (effective) than you are presently doing and more than others are doing, or continue the same hollow gestures, waiting for someone or something to do it for you. If I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath relying on the latter.
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Monday, January 6, 2014

Doing Nothing is the Easiest Option

It is easy to find reasons to do nothing about virtually anything. Even when doom stares someone in the face many will do nothing. But let’s not be overdramatic, my focus has to do with advising people who seek new jobs, to provide more substantive counsel beyond the lame and hollow mainstream advice that, in my opinion, suggests little other than more internet-based activities. Or the pseudo-suggestion of throwing even more of resumes to the four winds and then sitting on your hands, fingers crossed, waiting for someone to call you. Sorry, but that sounds more like waiting for a fish to bite an idle hook with old bait – but it surely is not the best way to look for a job. Especially if there are many, many others nearby doing the same thing, with more people fishing than there are fish.
Some people think engaging in efforts to stand apart or to stand out is akin to grandstanding, or they may tell themselves they are no better than anyone else. And logically speaking, if you think you are no better than others, then, you aren’t. But I am not suggesting anyone is better than anyone else per se, just different, and therein lays the logic behind my intent.
We’re not all the same and so generic solutions and suggestions meant for the masses are of little use to the individual. If you are a do-nothing kind of person, then actively seeking opportunity that is not spoon fed to you, or is not laid at your feet is probably a scary thing to consider. There are many people who, when confronted with something that is not predictably scripted and not formulaic, react by finding more reasons for why not to do something, than to do something. Too many are consumed with playing it safe; avoiding risks and, most of all, avoid bringing unnecessary attention upon themselves. It doesn’t make it any easier that we are surrounded by others telling us to comply, to compromise our goals because well, we just expect too much. They speak of individuality as though it is an affliction rather than a character trait. Here’s an example: tell someone that you are not happy about your current job and their reflexive answer might be, “You’re lucky to have a job”. Furthermore, there are many who think the world is against them, having convinced themselves the proverbial they are erecting obstacles to their pursuits and well-being, when in reality there is only one primary culprit that holds them back – themselves. Often I speak with very capable people who talk themselves out of doing what they originally claimed they wanted.
Guard against cynicism
Even when conducting one of the most basic of tasks reviewing job descriptions, many people find ways of disqualify themselves, disregarding opportunities for the silliest of reasons. I recently spoke to someone who considered applying for a staff-related position I shared. At first they were interested, but it didn’t take long for them to start picking it apart. For example: there was a list of 6 qualifications required to be considered and the person to whom I was speaking  felt they were weak in one of the 6; not lacking, but it was not an area in which they had strength. This, they suggested, was a reason why they doubted they would be seriously considered and, therefore, it would be a waste of time to pursue. Then, they expressed doubt because the posting showed no information specifying work hours. Really, that’s a reason not to apply? They went on to complain there was not enough information by which to make a decision. I said job descriptions meant for the public are intentionally brief and generic, with a bare minimum of information but, to no avail, they decided they would not pursue a job for which they didn’t feel worthy. I could only conclude that this person was either lazy, not in real need of a job or wanted to find an excuse not to do anything. Glass half-full cynicism comes to mind but the larger issue is the habit of finding it easier to do nothing than to risk rejection. Worse yet, some people argue more strenuously for why not to do something and how much sense does that make? So if you’re serious, get serious; no one else can or should do it for you.
My advice to you is to flip the equation and begin to find reasons why a company should consider you, rather than finding reasons why they shouldn’t or won’t. Fight the urge to negatively pre-determine the outcome. If there is a list of required qualifications and you possess most of them and lack one or maybe two, but make up for it in other (listed) areas, check it out. Please do not misunderstand, if you are not qualified don’t apply, thereby wasting both someone else’s time and yours. But if you feel strongly about your abilities, don’t let a generic list stop you. Pursue opportunities and, who knows, if you may not be an exact fit for the job for which you applied, you might just impress them so much that they might have another role in mind, which may or may not yet be publicly known. Maybe they have someone currently in place they’d replace if the right person came along, but how can you learn about it without making the attempt. I don’t mean to offend anyone but, sadly, society has produced a lot of cry babies who can’t handle a little rejection – get over it, that’s life and we don’t always get what we want the first time or second, or even third time, for that matter - yeah, and so what?
One never knows what is around the next corner, but you can’t and won’t find out if you don’t make the effort.
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