Friday, November 20, 2009

Job Search Extra Point | Ray of Hope

I have feel good story to start everyone’s weekend. SAM_0095_1

I had a networking meeting with a former colleague this morning (remember – networking is important). When last I saw her (last year at the very same Caribou Coffee), she was about 2 weeks from being laid off with no plan or prospects for employment. 

Things can change rapidly.

Since our last visit:

  1. She has a new job, at an awesome global company (that is not only surviving - but growing in the current economy)
  2. Her new boss is fantastic – mentoring and encouraging her to reach beyond her grasp
  3. She has uncovered unknown skills that will help her in the marketplace going forward
  4. She is engaged, and getting married this Summer

Her success and reward for hard work lifted and inspired me this morning.

So for everyone pounding the pavement and working hard to get their next gig (or to hold onto the one the have), hang on to hope (when there’s no hope to speak of) and never say die.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Job Search Extra Point | Are you ready or are you already sunk?

This morning I came across a startling headline from the Phoenix Business Journal in my Google Reader: Survey: Workers ill-prepared for job search. The article reported a Robert Half International survey that stated 44% of office workers have not updated their resume in more than a year.


I was quite astonished at this apparent apathy of the respondents. Have you read the papers, watched TV at all in the past 12 months?  Have you heard of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping?

Although I don’t think folks should panic (if they currently have a job) and run screaming into the night marking the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb (Oops! Sorry - wrong holiday season).  But, if you’re sailing through icebergs in the North Atlantic on a ship made of iron (tortured analogy to the current job market), you might want a life jacket within arm’s reach.  Remember, hope is not a strategy.

The Phoenix Business journal quotes Reesa Staten, senior vice president and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, as saying “a current resume is an essential career tool. The longer it remains untouched, the harder it is to update, since specific achievements are not always easy to recall.”

Staten also adds “Workers who are prepared in the event of a sudden job loss also are ready when new employment opportunities arise, including those within their own companies. A compelling resume is just the first building block of a successful job search.”

Are you ready?

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #3 Why do I need to network when I can find my job on

A: Because most of those jobs are NOT real (or have already been filled).

Okay – so I don’t have the or CareerBuilder police after me, there’s no way of knowing how many jobs on those sites are real. It’s not that you want to ignore those sites --absolutely not! You need to have daily agents running on all of the major job sites (and any others sites that are specialized to your industry). But with studies indicating that approximately 70% of all jobs are found through networking, you need to spend most of your hard-hitting energy playing the odds (spending quality time where it will most payoff).

The what before the how

We’ll cover how to start network in an upcoming post (since I am trying to get one of these 20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know posts under 1,000 words - since I was clowned for verbosity earlier today) but here are 4 key thoughts that ran through my grey matter on why networking is so darned important:

Never look for a job by yourself  You’ve only got two eyes – and you can’t be everywhere. However, your network has a much wider reach. The saying used to be never read the want ads alone – but that’s a tad stale (and gone the way of the horse and buggy, IBM Selectric typewriter and the VCR). There are now so many other places to look (seen and be seen) it can be staggering.  Ergo – you need some help.

What you want is someone in your network to think of you -- and connect in their mind you and an opportunity (for a job, or to network with someone new) when they have one. Some examples of how your network can be of help to you:

  • They receive a job referral that is not a fit for them and they pass it to you
  • A hiring manager who interviewed you in the past that now has another opening that you are even better suited for sends you an email (since you already had coffee at Starbucks scheduled for next week)
  • Your Mom’s company has opening (don’t laugh – it works).  Hopefully she calls you first and doesn’t tell the hiring manager who smart you are and how cute you were as a baby
  • A sales guy at your last company is working with a prospect that has a hiring need in your wheelhouse and she DMs you on Twitter
  • The Rotor-Rooter guy who cleaned the poop out of your tub tells you his son just got a job at company that still is hiring a lot of folks that do what you do for a living (I had a real gabby Roto-Rooter guy last time)
  • Someone you are on a committee with at church works for the hiring manager that you want to interview with and she gives you his email address
  • Your wife sees a Help Wanted sign in the window of one of your target companies (Hey! Low tech is here to stay) and sends you a text

Repeat after me: Networking is not who you know but who knows you

Screens keep more that flys out Your primary mission during your job search sorties is to get a sit down with the person who has the job (the hiring manager). You also want to do so with talking to as few people beforehand as possible - because these folks can work as a screen to keep you out. These screen come in all shapes:

  • The junior HR intern who doesn’t understand the open job requisition so he doesn’t know what’s on your resume that matches (nor the cover letter you added to do just that).
  • The evil (future) peer who either (1) wants the job for themselves and is pissed they are considering your sorry ass and/or (2) wants someone less talented than they are (to avoid competition). Either way – they will attempt to U-boat you before you get one foot in the door.
  • All the other external candidates that are King Of The Hill-ing you (and are better at networking than you…at least for the moment)

Simply put: You want the hiring manager picking up the phone and making the first call to you when they need a body (before HR or before some chowder that already works for them). It’s that Pavlovian response that is the money shot of the job search.

You personal AWACS reconnaissance mission There is more to networking than connecting you and opportunities – it can also help you seal the deal. Use your network to supplement the research you have done on the company already and (more importantly) to get downlo on the specific folks you will be working with and for. We’re not talking email addresses and cell phone numbers  – but what makes them tick, what do they look for in candidates and what really peeves them. This intelligence can be your secret weapon against the competition (that is all the other rubes who applied for the job).

An example:  Last year, I referred a (talented) former client of mine to the company I was working for at the time.  During her candidate process, we spent hours on the phone (most of mine from a gate at JFK airport) going over the personalities and desires of each person she was to interview with. This was detailed reconnaissance (down to buzzwords they liked). The result?  She got the job, I got a referral bonus (yessir!) and my (now former) employer got a fantastic, well-prepared employee. 

This is an extremely powerful aspect of networking that is often overlooked.

Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You I am a big believer of the karma wheel (d/b/a pay it forward).  It is all about love and math.  The more you hook-up people, the larger your network grows and the greater number of folks there are in the world (and more importantly the workplace) that are walking (Faberge Shampoo-like) commercials for you. But the latter really needs to be subtext. You need to hook-up folks (no strings attached) and let the karma take care of itself. It is not as subtle as it may sound (if it is – then you’re not in the right place when you’re doing it)


Up Next: How do I start to network?


Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Job Search Bonus: Become part of the solution

Fantastic story in the Star Tribune today about Peggy Byrne (New website is a one-stop job shop). Peggy is an in transition HR professional who has started She is using her past experience to benefit others on the hunt (and hopefully) get herself a job in the process.

The site covers:

Links to job search engines, food shelves, housing and heating assistance programs, free flu shot clinics, free legal clinics, cheap medical care, transportation, job retraining programs, bargains and news articles about grants, loans and thousands of other resources for the unemployed

This is a great example of three things I hold holy in the job search wars:

  • Doing something positive to keep yourself motivated during the search. Job search is combat tactics, Mr. Ryan.  Don’t give up!
  • Paying it forward…helping others with no strings attached is the best way to take extra spins on the karma wheel
  • What you do for free may help you get your next job (use the web to show the world your talents and not just tweet how many Vodka Red Bulls you had last night)

Remember – we’re all in those together (the economy, the job market). Peggy is showing you the new normal on the front lines of the job hunt.

Monday, November 9, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #2 Should I use a recruiter/headhunter?

Answer: Absolutely (part of our Malcolm X-esque by any means necessary approach to the hunt). leads

As I talked about in the last post – times (and the market) have changed significantly. With a few exceptions in the green and healthcare verticals (Great job openings, no candidates), most job seekers are not going to have staffing professionals beating down their door begging you to come interview.  Unfortunately in the current job market - demand is obliterating supply.  However, engaging with key staffing professionals can give you a boost, a partner in your hunt as well as preparing you should land an interview at one of your Glengarry (job) leads.

Here are a few observation and tips (that have rocked my world over the years) to get the most out of your relationship with a recruiter:

Build Relationships Make it a true partnership. Seek and find awesome recruiters in your industry and get to know them. These partners will not only broaden your contacts base – but if they get to know what makes you special (and you deliver for them), that increases the chances of them thinking of you when opportunities pop.

I’ll this in  nearly every posts on the job search topic: The secret of networking is not who you know – but who knows you.

Don’t forget you need to build and nurture your network before you need it. Make sure you are making (what we call in the CRM world) touches (good touches: calling, meeting for coffee, playing jarts) with folks not just when you need a job or something else (it can be considered rude – since it is).

That segues us to….

Love is a 2-way street  Like any healthy, valuable relationship, you want to ensure both parties get something out of the deal. Help them out however and whenever you can.

For a example, I make it a practice with all the professionals I work with (whether as a hiring manager or candidate) to see if there is something I can do for them (unrelated to my direct needs at the time). I end each phone call or meeting with (something like) “Is there an opening (for another client) you are having trouble filling that my network may be able to help you with”?Also let them know when you are not a fit (don’t waste everyone’s time).

Target Preferred Vendors/Corporate Recruiters Get to know the folks who do the recruiting for the companies you are targeting. This may be an internal HR professional or a third-party. Many companies have exclusive or preferred vendor agreements (so if you want in – that’s the only way). Do your research and find out who you need to be talking with to unlock the front door.

Get The Downlo Most top shelf recruiters will already do this – but make sure you pump them for every piece of information about the opportunity, the company and (most importantly) the personalities and wants of the hiring manager. As mentioned above, recruiters often have a long time relationship with the hiring manager and can give you insight into the intangibles of the position (which – as you should know – often swing the difference between candidates). Remember – the recruiter may work (directly or indirectly) for the company that is hiring – but you have a common goal: to present the hiring manager with the best (and best prepared) candidate. Work together with the recruiter to make that person you.

Rent To Own Often recruiters will be used in Contract- To-Hire opportunities (especially in soft markets like now – where FTEs give some hiring managers the willies). This is a great way to get into a company and show value (and make the company find a way to hire you). During the contract phase, often the recruiter will be good source of feedback from the client (to allow you to perfect your perfect fit).


Up next : Why do I need to network when I can find a job on


Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.

Monday, November 2, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #1 Where do I look for a job?


Late last week, more proclamations filled the virtual airwaves that that the recession is now over. Thanks everybody for playing – now go spend wildly and hedonistically once again!

Are you buying it (so to speak)? As NPR put it, it might be over if you are an economist, but not if you are a politician. I would also add that if you are currently that 10-17% pool of the unemployed – let alone under employed, you are probably not dancing around the maypole just yet.

Last week, I met with 3 folks as part of the career coaching that I do. I was glad to hear that 2 of the 3 individuals had strong leads and promising second (or third) interviews. Does that very informal and highly unscientific poll (not to mention small sample size) mean things are getting better on the job front? I don’t know – but for folks that are in transition (such a sanitized word for what is for a lot of folks prolonged months of terror), it doesn’t matter.

The job market is what it is – and there is only one market (if independent wealth or relocation to Tibet are not part of your options). It is not easy and it is not fun but if you find yourself on the hunt, you must navigate your way through this current storm and learn and enhance the tools you need to get to the other side in one piece.

Recently, I conducted a workshop here in the Twin Cities on job search/networking skills (very boringly and verbosely) entitled 20 Questions (and Answers) about Job Search/Resumes/Interviews and Networking. Over the next few weeks (perhaps months), I’ll be reprising these topics (20 more post hooks already in the bag!) with a slightly sexier title.   I am not sure what the over-under is on getting all 20 out before the end of the calendar year (but stretch goals are always good for a body).

Question #1 | Where do I look for jobs?

This one is simple: where the jobs are. Ho_hoes

If you have not been in the market for a new gig in the last 8 years (since the last major job recession) – let alone the last 2 years (with the explosion of social media), then it is a far different landscape than the last time you were out there.

A story I retell often is one I nicked from a gentleman at a job support group back in 2001 (when I was in transition myself). To stay positive and energized, the man cancelled his daily newspaper subscription to force himself to shower, get dressed and walk the mile to the convenience store every day to buy it in person (and then take it home and comb the want ads).

Unfortunately that story had a shorter shelf life than the Ho-Ho’s that were next to the paper stand. Things have changed: (1) Newspapers are folding and downsizing faster than Valerie Bertinelli   (2) they don’t have many want ads (which causing problem #1 in the first place). So if you are still circling Wants Ads –that’s not going to work very well.

Change is constant. This is a good news/bad news deal on the job hunt. Good news – there’s a greater number of avenues to connect you with someone who is hiring (that’s your first goal). The downside is there is a greater volume of noise for you to sift through, greater competition (I don’t have to read your local grocery store shopper to know about a job in your neighborhood) and also constant vigilance required on your part to stay ahead of it all.

Where or where can they be?

So where are the jobs – and where do you need to look?  Start here:

  • Networking On our way to 20 questions, I will have a number of posts specifically talking about networking. By far – this is the most important channel of your job search that you need to focus on. Impossible to prove, but depending on who you listen to, it is estimated 50-85% of the job requisitions are filled through networking (e.g. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it at 70 percent). This doesn’t mean you ignore the other avenues, but you really want to spend 70-80% of your search time and effort here. Remember – this is not just for white collar (slick sales guy) jobs. Networking is just as important all across the vocation spectrum (it is how I got my first job at Musicland…another thing that dates me….a record store, what is that?)


  • (Target) Company Websites Hopefully you’re not (solely) shot gunning your job search and that you have identified companies (1) that are hiring – or will be hiring soon and (2) that have positions that you could fill. On their websites, check the careers page - register for email updates of new posting if they have that. Also check the PR portion of their site. If they are getting new VC money (theoretically it still happens) or they are announcing new business units – those are signs they may soon be hiring.  Also look for notices of layoffs (sadly - that sometimes indicates current employees are being sacrificed to hire new ones).


  • Business journals Like the company website above – this is a good source of business intelligence. Subscribe to the regional and industry business journals in your target market (like the Business Journal) to keep up on what companies are doing. Most offer RSS or Twitter feeds as well.


  • Job boards (Monster/Career Builder, etc) Yes – the successor to the Wants Ads. Every time I tell folks that (again – unsubstantiated statistic) 75-85% of jobs on that board are not real, they first (1) freak-out (2) the light goes on why they never hear back from all the resumes they submit. You don’t want to ignore any channel in your search (real leads are on there), but limit the time on the less successful avenues (this is more of quantitative that qualitative channel). Further – set job agents on these sites (to fish wider and quicker).


  • Recruiters If you think it is 1999, and 15 recruiters call you a day with a boatload of opportunities, the game has changed (have you noticed?). However, this is an extremely valuable resource (for candidates and companies). My next post will specifically talk about this conduit.


  • Professional associates Another form of networking – leveraging your peers. Either meetings you attended (you do go to meetings of your peers, don’t you?) or websites/social sites where your kind congregates is great for leads.


  • Online/Social Media sites This crosses a few lines (with the items mentioned). You can use it to track your target companies, your industry and also job boards that use these tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS, etc). You can also use these sites to broadcast yourself (e.g. updating status on LinkedIn or Facebook letting the world know).  Be careful what you post (remember this marketing – not therapy).


  • Onsite Yes. People still put Help Wanted signs in their front window.


That’s a few places to start – not an unabridged list (have you talked to your Mother lately?). Whatever it takes and wherever you need to go, make sure to leave no stone unturned.  However, try to limit the number of rocks you lift up that have nothing (or nothing for you) under them.

Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what doesn’t feel right, use what makes sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.


Next up: Question #2  | Should I use a recruiter/headhunter?