Monday, May 25, 2015

Get Noticed

Many people are concerned about being no more than a faceless number, represented only by their digital resume as they seek to find a job. Their frustration is justified because so many others are doing the same thing at a time when the current job market is more competitive than ever. It’s a virtual jungle out there, so how can you provide yourself a slight edge in order to be more competitive when applying online for jobs in which you have interest? Until you find yourself seated in front of a hiring manager, how can you enhance your chances of getting noticed? Let me suggest a couple of steps you can take, so that, at the very least, you can rest assured that you’ve done all you can do given the circumstance. 
Look at the job post you are interested in to see if there is a contact name, or it might show the company or agency logo. Either a name or a company is necessary; not all job postings list this info, but many do. 
If there is only a company or agency named on the listing but not any name of a person, you need to search their website and look for an HR contact; don’t worry about the level or title. Invest in a little time and conduct some research -- it matters. Separately, have at the ready a short cover letter or well-crafted personal intro, keep it short, it needn’t be nor should it be long. Now, take this info and do any or all of the following:
First, go ahead and apply online as you would normally do. After that, go next to LinkedIn and try to locate the contact person whose name was listed in the original job post (this step is dependent upon your having a LinkedIn profile, which most people have or should have). If you find that person, send them an invitation via LinkedIn. Even if you don’t have a paid LinkedIn account, no matter; click on Connect and you will see some options. Click on Friend and you can then type a message up-to 300 total characters (plus spaces). You can type something like this example:  

Hello Mr. (or) Ms. XXXX,
Please add me to your network. I responded to the job position title / file number / date applied and sent my resume. I would like to be considered for the opportunity and I look forward to meeting you.
(Your name)  
Keep it brief, professional and to the point. Meanwhile, also try to find their company email address. It may be on LinkedIn, look beneath their photo where it might say Contact Info. Or, you could investigate their company website. If you feel so inclined, call the company switchboard and if you have a name just ask for their email address. Or, at least identify another email address within the same company; most companies have the same structure or pattern for all addresses, such as first name.last name, for example. 
Now, send them a company email and again state that you have applied for position title / file number / date applied. But this time you can add more information and or attach a cover letter. But, likewise, keep it short.
Now step back and look at what we’ve possibly accomplished:
1)      You’ve applied online through the job post portal
2)      You identified and established contact through LinkedIn or other appropriate social networking site.
3)      You have established introductory contact via their work address 

If the goal was to get noticed, you will have likely succeeded and as long as you kept it short and professional, no one should have a negative reaction as a result. In my experience, efforts such as I’ve just described, show purposeful intent and dedication to a stated goal; the last time I checked, these are desirable traits. 
Adopt this procedure and make it a part of your routine and habit, doing it each and every time you apply for any job, whenever possible.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Chicken or the Egg

When it comes to helping oneself find job opportunities, most of us have been conditioned to believe the internet is the answer for everything. We’re led to believe that without online efforts, we have no hope of finding a good job when, in fact, this is a silly assumption. At the same time, more and more people are realizing their best efforts online are not getting them very far, which leaves them more frustrated than ever.
Are you aware that many jobs are not even posted online? And there are many more than you think. If you resort solely to online job search activities this is not what you want to hear – I’m not writing this blog to pacify anyone but, instead, I am writing to get people off their butts and to rediscover their own capabilities and how to help themselves.
For many reasons, managers might have job positions they would like to fill but, for some reason they haven’t, although lack of time and workload are the two primary reasons. So do they post a job or do they wait until the right person comes along, which makes it a chicken or egg proposition. If the right person walks through the door, literally or figuratively, they will often act upon it. So, why can’t you be that person? I’ll tell you why, because you’ve been conditioned to think all you’re permitted to do is dutifully watch the computer monitor and react only when you see something, and then do only what you are instructed to do. Pavlov’s dog comes to mind. In the minds of many, the internet is all there is – and many processes have been trending more and more automated, so that even if you apply online, there are increasingly more hoops for you to jump through just to be able to send your resume. Sorry, but I find it easier to determine who is the hiring manager and then contact them directly. 
Conversations with the actual hiring managers differ from those with human resource staffers who may not even be aware of some of these un-posted jobs because they have their hands full with other things. Or, human resources may be aware but it might not be a priority at the moment because, as I stated, they are already juggling a lot, which is a reason they have no time to speak with you.  
No doubt online activity and checking job listings is something everyone searching for a job should do. But if that constitutes the primary focus of your job opportunity search efforts, I am not surprised you’re not getting much return for your efforts – and neither should you be surprised, because you’re not doing anything – not really. I tire of saying it but you’d better learn to do more in order to help yourself. 
Start small; you don’t have to do anything radical. Construct a plan A, B and C list of companies that, if you knew they were looking for someone, you would want to know about it. By the way, I hope you’ve already done this for your online search efforts. Next, spend some time using the internet for that which it is really good -- research. Exploit company websites, learn to use LinkedIn or Google search to identify the managers for whom you might work, at the companies where you have interest. Find the ways to establish contact via email or their company switchboard, call their admin assistant. At this moment, I’ll side-track to emphasize that if / when you have the hiring manager on the other end, I hope you have something worthy of their attention. For more about this, search my blog archives from April 2013 when I wrote a few consecutive entries about constructing your own personal F.A.B. presentation, so that when it comes time and you have your moment you say something worthy of their time and attention. Or better yet, you’d be well served to get my handbook. 
Now where were we…I know what many readers are thinking, “But that’s hard Michael, it’s a lot of effort.” Yeah it is, but if you think you can send a few resumes and invest nothing more of yourself to get a good job, well then, you just don’t get it. Who told you a good job is easy to find? Maybe you are one of those who think your dream job is just a lucky mouse click away, right? Hey look, if you think perusing the job boards and portals is good enough, then fine, keep on doing that. But if you are not satisfied or feel limited then you have to do more.
Here’s the most ironic part of all this; what I am describing above is the way we all used to find jobs, which shows just how far we’ve sunk, how much we’ve allowed ourselves to be debilitated by opting for the convenience of internet access for convenience, at the expense of our own self-sufficiency – in just one generation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Confidence Deficit

I have been a headhunter and consultant for a long time, working with and on behalf of company hiring managers on one side of the table and job seekers on the other. I have dealt with people of all professional levels, functions and roles, too many to count. During the last 22 years I’ve interacted with both white and blue collar, with and without university degrees, entry-level and senior executives and, oh my, the changes I have witnessed. 
People face many obstacles in the current employment market, the sluggish economy being the most obvious, but there are other more subtle hurdles. The simple act of applying for jobs has become an obstacle course intentionally erected by human resources with the blessing of company management. For some reason, some of these wizards think companies can streamline and better hire the people they need by removing as much human interaction from the initial stages of the hiring process as possible. Ironic, eh?
However, the biggest obstacle people face – is themselves. Yeah, that’s right, increasingly more and more job seekers are their own worst enemy, talk about ironic
The thing people suffer from the most is a lack of confidence - don’t doubt me on this, otherwise ambitious and hard-working people have become absolute wimps. They’ve rendered themselves powerless to influence their own fate. Increasingly and unbelievably my simplest suggestions are met with incredulity and I contend it is the digital age that has been shackling people. 
Let’s take, for example, the basic act of finding a job. When I suggest people need to do more than rote, repetitive, un-inspiring and un-productive online job search and application activities – they look at me much like a dog looks at you and tilts its head, when you say something they don’t understand. Online only job search activity is a losing proposition, plain and simple, and people deep down know it. For context to back up this claim, read my blog entry from 1 September 2014, entitled The Uncomfortable Truth About Jobs Posted Online, which registered more than 45,000 views; obviously, I struck a nerve. 
Need a couple of reasons I am right? Okay, many available jobs are not even posted online. Many of the jobs listed are pure B.S. and if you look often enough you’ll see the same jobs appear over and over, and it’s not because they are hiring lots of people but, rather, they are crap jobs nobody wants. Yet people keep doing the same thing because they are unwilling to step beyond a comfort zone in which someone might tell them, “no” and thereby ruin their day, boo hoo. Here, let me hit you right between the eyes; if you are not having much luck with finding a job and all you are doing is applying online and not seeming to get anywhere – you’d better start doing something different. If you are not willing to try new things, don’t complain, but the system isn’t your biggest problem; you are your biggest problem. You should see the reactions I get when I suggest that, after submitting their resume online and hearing nothing, they should try to call the company to follow up 7 – 10 days afterward. They actually tell me, “I will not do that; I’m not begging for a job.” What?
And what about the interview process? I always advise that people engage in the process and take a hands-on approach, asking about and questioning everything to gain a full understanding about the job they are seeking and for being evaluated – it’s common sense, right? I suggest they ask questions like, “Why is the position open?”, “What happened to the last person?”, and “How long were they in the position?”… I have had increasingly more people actually say to me, “But they might not like if I ask so many questions.” Are you kidding me, get off your knees for God’s sake!  
Even the simplest interview protocol of sending a follow-up letter / email after an interview, which is and should be a normal gesture after any interview with a hiring manager, and yet people say, “No, I don’t want it to look like I am kissing their butt or too eager.”
On the other hand, I know of many people who have gotten angry at me but also implemented some of my suggestions and later admitted it made a positive difference. Here’s the thing: I hear a lot of complaining out there, when in fact there are jobs, but too many people are looking for every excuse to not do something that can greatly benefit them.
Now, if you are angered and offended because, perhaps, you resemble some of what I described above, good, I hope so. Because often people stuck in a rut need something to yank them out of it. Which brings us back to the topic of self-confidence; if you have it then nothing I stated above would be offensive. Everyone has difficulties and I’m not picking on anyone, but in order to change a situation – something has to change in order to bring about a different result. 
It’s your choice, stay where it is safe and warm making excuses or take control of your own destiny and grow a thicker skin, so that the word “no” or a disapproving look doesn’t damage increasingly frail egos. Step outside your comfort zone to move your life and career forward. Since when did we begin to feel as though we don’t have permission to do anything more than digital measures? Who made these supposed rules and why are we following them? The solution is ridiculously simple; incorporate some creativity and innovation into your activities. What’s the worst that could happen, you might get no replies, or you might be told “no”? Chances are that is already the case. Change your mind and change your life.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Earn the Opportunity to Say No

Question: When you go to the first interview for any job, what is your goal; what should be your goal?
Answer: To be invited back for the next step in the process for further consideration.
That is your mission, do well enough to be invited back, one step at a time. Some people go into the interview and boldly say, “I’m going to get that job!” and that’s a good attitude but I counsel them not to get ahead of themselves. On the other hand, there are also many people who make a snap judgment during the first interview and before it is over they conclude they aren’t interested. So they don’t endeavor to finish the interview appropriately and, rather, they just give up. When you might have otherwise slept on it, you may have second thoughts about your conclusions if you haven’t already killed your own chances to be considered further. This is a mistake I see people make and indeed, hindsight is always 20/20. I contend foresight is more beneficial than hindsight.
The saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. If you choose to attend an interview, go into it to win it. Anything less and you’re short-changing yourself. The first interview is a screening interview for the most part. As such, don’t be surprised if the event is rather mechanical and not very inspiring, they don’t know you yet, nor do you know them. Perhaps you may not even meet your potential boss in the first round, but rather an HR staffer who hasn’t a clue about the details of the job for which you’ve applied. Their function is to screen you for your suitability, in order to send you forward to meet the hiring manager, whose time is short and is otherwise occupied. 
I am not suggesting anyone interview for a job they don’t want, but don’t jump to a conclusion until you have enough facts upon which to base an informed decision. Indeed, if you encounter a complete mismatch between you and the job, you don’t match the company culture, or encounter ridiculous conditions, or you meet a jerk and it’s clearly a waste of your time, politely extricate yourself and save any more time wasted. But if you are not quite sure keep going, learn more and if you note something that raises a red flag, take notes; ask a question or save it for further consideration and later clarification. Use your head, as much or more, than your heart – it’s not personal, it’s business so treat it as such.
I can’t count all the times I have spoken with people I’ve represented who later, after the fact and against my counsel admitted, “I regret that I didn’t continue to at least learn more…”, “had I known…I would have felt differently…I might have done something different”. But in order to have the option to consider them and take it further, you have to stay focused and demonstrate why you should be considered further. Many people I’ve represented, who did take my advice, later thanked me for convincing them to not quit a process before they learned more, which invariably resulted in increased enthusiasm, which in turn, resulted in a new job.  If you haven’t noticed increasingly, interviews are harder to come by so don’t dismiss something out of hand until you have more  facts; strive to kick ass and show why you are their best choice, especially during the all-important first (face-to-face) interview. 
In most cases, it is the second interview when you’ll have a good overview of the job and, likewise, they gain a better understanding about you. So take every interview seriously in its entirety, get all the information and make the best effort to be invited for the next step – each time. If you like the opportunity, go for it. If you don’t you can always decline and say no – but not if you didn’t bother to reach this point. Earn the opportunity to be able to say yes, or no – rather than to rush to a snap judgment unnecessarily and unwisely. That is, of course, unless you are one of the lucky ones, who have so many opportunities from which to pick and choose.