Sunday, November 21, 2010

Are You Remarkable?

More again from the wise Seth Godin: Check out this video from a talk Godin presented at TED, entitled “Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights.”

In this video, Godin notes how marketing has changed: Interrupting people to get their attention doesn’t work any longer, because we just don’t care. We have too many choices, too little time. What worked for the “TV Industrial Complex” – mass marketing that brought average products to average people – is no longer viable. The key is to reach people who care with things that are remarkable.

These ideas apply to one’s job search as well. Broadcasting (mass mailing) our resumes to potential employers has proven to be ineffective. Employers don’t care, and they have too many choices, not enough time.

We need to be remarkable to those that care.

We need to figure out what people (employers) want and give it to them. And we need to be remarkable, because being very good is average.

So are you remarkable? Can you identify your value and articulate it in such as way as to be remarkable for a potential employer who cares?

When I have clients that get frustrated with their search, one of the first things they want to do is develop a resume like the one they had before; one that looks like everyone else’s; one that is average. The second thing they do is quit networking – quit looking for people who care – and apply to posted positions on Monster, Career Builder and other job boards. This is not being remarkable. It’s being average. Employers don’t care about average; they don’t have time for average.

Remarkable is getting in front of the people who make decisions in the companies you’re interested in working for. Remarkable is listening to what their problems are and developing solutions for them. Remarkable is that you are the solution.

Is being remarkable easy? Of course not, if it was it wouldn’t be remarkable; it would be average. So this is hard work. It requires focus: How am I remarkable? Why am I remarkable? (Hint: See “Start with Why”.) It requires diligence: Who cares that I’m remarkable? How do I reach them?

So be remarkable. Figure out who cares. Figure out what they want and give it to them.

What do you think? Can you be remarkable? Do you know how you’re remarkable? Can you tell how to those people who care?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Indispensable?

It seems I’ve been reading about artists and artisans lately, in the most peculiar places.

Tom Friedman recently wrote a column in the New York Times about what the recent mid-term election should have been about. In usual Friedman fashion, he laid out a cogent argument. But one issue in particular stood out. Friedman cited economist Lawrence Katz, who notes that everyone today “needs to think of himself as an ‘artisan’.’’ Artisans were people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride, prior to mass manufacturing. Today everyone has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs; doing one’s job in an average way – in an integrated and automated global economy won’t cut it. “The age of average is over. We’re in the age of ‘extra,’ and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work.”

This week, I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Godin’s premise is that in this “hypercompetitive world” workers must make indispensable contributions and be the linchpins – leaders and connectors – who make a difference; people who can walk into chaos and create order; someone who can make things happen. Godin says that linchpins are artists, who bring their humanity to work; who are brave enough to make a difference.

Godin talks a lot about how a number of artists can’t draw, but he says, “all artists can see.” They see what’s right and what’s wrong. They see opportunities and “can see around corners.” Art is creative, passionate and personal; it’s about intent and communication. “An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally…The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.”

As an artist, Godin notes, the job is not your work. Your work is what you do with your heart and soul.

And, says, Godin, art must have purpose. “Artists,” he says, “don’t think outside the box, because outside the box there’s a vacuum. Outside the box there are no rules, there is no reality…Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done…that’s where you can make an impact.”

So, are you an artist in your work? Do you make a difference? Are you indispensable, or are you average and expendable?

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

From Passion to Purpose – Doug: A Success Story

Awhile ago I wrote a post entitled From Passion to Purpose? where in lamenting the permanent loss of jobs during this Great Recession, I discussed Geoff Bellman’s book Your Signature Path: Gaining New Perspectives on Life and Work, where he noted that “We don’t always need new skills to be successful; we often just need a new perspective.” I also referred to Simon Sinek’s admonition to “start with why,” to begin with your motivation and purpose as the basis for what you do and how you do it; which drive us toward discovering our passion.

Shortly after the publication of that post, I had a call from Doug, who wanted to share his story. Last year, Doug found himself unexpectedly laid off from his job as Director of Quality Assurance for a New England manufacturing company. At 57, he found himself out of a job for the first time in 26 years (full disclosure: Doug is my cousin). While Doug knew his manufacturing company was in trouble, he expected that he would be the one, in his words, “to lock the door, turn out the lights.” He saw himself as a key contributor to the company’s on-going operations. As Director of QA, he had been instrumental in establishing operations at their Mexico plant. It came as a complete surprise when he was informed that his position was no longer required. However, as he mentioned in our conversation, “it took me about ten minutes to get over it.” On the way to his car, with his personal effects, he began taking stock of his situation.

For some time, Doug had been a fixture on the local music scene, playing in a bluegrass band at venues in his community. He had an extensive network of local musicians in the region, from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He loved playing with the band and jamming with others.

Doug and his wife, Melanie, were empty nesters – their kids “were off the books;” their house was paid for and they had health benefits through Melanie’s job. He figured he needed to bring in $2,000 a month to make ends meet. His six month severance package from his company would give them a cushion for awhile.

Doug started a business that incorporated his passion for music – as well as playing with his band, he books and advertises his friends and others in venues in the three state region. He also appears on a radio program that showcases the regional music scene. When he’s not playing with his band, he’s checking out other musicians’ at their gigs.

Doug realized he couldn’t make a living on his music alone, nor could he rely on just one source of income. He’s expanded his business to include event planning, providing all the needs of customers for their special events. Moreover, Doug didn’t burn any bridges with his old company. He does some consulting for them as well as for a handful of other clients. The retainer from one of his clients provides him more of a cushion for his needs.

Being laid off has enabled Doug to realize his inner entrepreneur. He’s a self described “semi-schemer,” networking all the time and thinking of new projects to take on.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 2010

Robert Reich recently wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled “How to End the Great Recession.” Reich’s pessimistic take on the failure of current efforts to stimulate the economy is because the structure of the economy has changed rather than due to the normal business cycle.

Reich notes that productivity enhancing software and outsourcing jobs to countries with cheaper labor forces have been among the contributors to many jobs vanishing from the economy and thus, the continuing high rate of unemployment. Reich argues that it will take a restructuring of public policies to encourage job growth and position America to be competitive in the future.

The permanent disappearance of jobs is one of the most difficult issues for those of us who counsel and coach people looking for their next position. Those clients in real estate related fields, financial services and other occupations have seen their jobs just evaporate.

Dan Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, wrote about the “3As” of Abundance, Asia and Automation. His thesis was that traditionally routine work that can be automated will be outsourced to Asian countries where smart people can do the work cheaper than their American counterparts.

The point is there are jobs that are not coming back and the people affected most are the middle class, which has long been the mainstay of this country’s economic well being.

So what can you do? Whether you’re employed or not, there are things you need to do to ensure that you retain your value (and your job):

  • Take responsibility – for both your own career and for being informed on how the changed economy affects your future. I’ve written plenty on the New Normal and strategies to navigate it relative to your career.
  • Be accountable – for your own career development. Don’t rely on the organization for which you work to provide a career path. Know your value; tell your story of how you influence outcomes that contribute to the organization’s bottom line.
  • Pay attention – regardless of your political leanings, don’t swallow the simple bromides that either incumbents or their opposition offer about what’s wrong with our nation. Make them go deeper with their explanations and proposals for improvement. Think about what they’re saying. Does it make sense, why or why not? Don’t succumb to the polarizing arguments that both sides present. Question them, get engaged, hold them accountable.
So what do you think needs to happen to remain productive and employed in today’s economy? Can you as an individual have an impact, if not on macro economic policy, on your economic policy – on your career?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From Passion to Purpose?

One of the more disconcerting aspects of this jobless economic recovery is the disappearance of jobs that just won’t return. The vanishing jobs are, in large part, what keeps our unemployment numbers consistently high; there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Moreover, most experts agree that it will take a Herculean effort to create jobs to replace those that have been lost.

In an effort to get a handle on this issue, I’ve been re-reading a terrific book by Geoff Bellman: Your Signature Path: Gaining New Perspectives on Life and Work (you can preview the book here). Bellman wrote this book in the mid-90s, but it is a timeless piece on how to reframe what you see and act on it. I’ve been trying to find a resource for clients who, in transition, are looking for more meaning in their work. Bellman’s book may just fit the bill.

Bellman’s premise can be summed up in this quote: “We don’t always need new skills to be successful; we often just need a new perspective.” His book provides a number of relatively simple exercises to gain, and act on, our new perspectives.

Bellman notes that many of us seek purpose through our work; which dovetails nicely with Dan Pink’s Motivation 3.0, where engagement produces mastery – becoming better at something that matters. Bellman’s ideas also jibe with Simon Sinek’s admonition to “start with why;” to begin with your motivation and purpose as the basis for what you do and how you do it. Like Sinek, Bellman notes that we’re most comfortable talking about our practice – the “Whats” and the “Hows.” However, “the focus on practice can lead us away from our purpose. Our methods can lead us away from our meaning.” The “Whys” drive us toward discovering our higher purpose; they speak to our motivation, our passion.

Bellman goes on to address the intersection of passion and work, which he notes, are seldom considered together. He mentions that while the world of work is more demanding and less secure, people are hopeful about work as a path to life meaning (and this was 1996). He offers some additional exercises to assist in linking passion to work, entitled “Romancing the Grindstone.”

So how does Bellman’s book help retrieve those lost jobs? The obvious answer is that it doesn't; not directly. However, the disappearance of jobs that are unlikely to return provides the opportunity to re-discover one’s passion – why we do what we do. Starting with why may lead us to a whole different set of actions, maybe even a new job, that can provide more meaning in our life. The jobs that evolve from an approach of following one’s passion can replace those lost jobs that were defined by someone else.

So, can you gain a new perspective; one that focuses on your passion? Can you begin with why – focus on your motivation and purpose, rather than on the what and the how? Can you provide meaning to your work? Can you define your work with meaning? Can your passion drive your purpose?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Future of Work

I’ve been writing of late about the “New Normal” – the way talent needs to be acquired, developed and managed by organizations and by the talent themselves. Click on the YouTube link below and watch this short video of “The Future of Work.” I believe it aptly describes the New Normal.

The video notes that the Future of Work will embody four critical characteristics:

  1. Transparent – Productivity matters, all the time
  2. Flat – Communication trumps location
  3. Competitive – There will be no excuse not to know how
  4. On demand – The word “career” is as outdated as the typewriter.

In the Future of Work individuals will have more freedom and power.

Can you see yourself in this New Normal of the Future of Work?

Can you demonstrate (constantly) your productivity, your value?

Can you work with, and be a part of, a virtual team, working with people all over the world?

Can you continue to learn of and use new tools to increase your value? Can you be an effective member of the crowd?

Can you envision a new world of work based on projects solved by those virtual teams rather than a career where you’re valued as a sole subject matter expert?

Can you assume responsibility for your own progress, not abdicate it to an organization?

Check out the video. How comfortable are you with the new paradigm? The New Normal?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Start with Why

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

Check out the YouTube video link below with Simon Sinek.

Why do you do what you do? What’s your purpose, your motivation?

Here’s mine:

I believe there is a “New Normal” in the way talent needs to be acquired, developed and managed by organizations and by the talent themselves. I believe new career management models are required and that people need guidance in navigating the uncertain, often turbulent waters of the New Normal.

By writing about the changes I’m observing, I can help people navigate the New Normal.

I counsel and coach clients about how to navigate through their careers.

So what about you? Can you start with why and work towards what? Can you explain to a potential employer why you do what you do? Can you articulate your purpose, your motivation?

Wouldn't you rather work for someone – or an organization – who started with why?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," by Daniel Pink

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink has written a book about motivation and the problem that most businesses haven’t caught up to what really motivates us.

“Too many organizations – not just companies, but governments and nonprofits as well – still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

The pursuit of short-term incentive plans and pay for performance requires an upgrade to Motivation 3.0, which incorporates three essential elements: Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; Mastery – the urge to improve on something that matters; and Purpose – the desire to do something in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Pink’s Motivation 3.0 is the logical evolution from two previous societal “operating systems” – the laws, social customs and economic provisos that “sit atop a layer of instructions, protocols, and suppositions about how the world works.” Motivation 1.0 was a basic survival operating system of early humans – the hunter-gatherers – whose day-to-day survival governed their behavior.

As civilization progressed and became more complicated, economic rules spawned a new operating system of external rewards and punishments – Motivation 2.0, which was extremely effective for rule-based, routine tasks of the type that prevailed from the Industrial Revolution up through the mid 20th century.

The carrot and stick approach of Motivation 2.0, however, has become unreliable for how we organize what we do; how we think about what we do; and how we do what we do. In fact, in our current operating system, Motivation 2.0 tends to “extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity and crowd out good behavior.” It can encourage unethical behavior, create addictions to rewards that distort decision-making, and foster short-term thinking.

Thus, an upgrade is required – Motivation 3.0 – for the smooth functioning of 21st century business, which depends on and fosters the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself; what Pink call “Type I” behavior. Type I behavior leads to “stronger performance, greater health and higher overall well-being.”

Pink shows how companies that are embracing the upgrade Motivation 3.0 and its basic elements are outperforming those that continue to employ the old Motivation 2.0 carrot and stick techniques.

The “default setting” of Motivation 3.0 is autonomy and self-direction. People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with) and technique (how they do it). Management’s role, then, isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices at certain times; it’s about creating conditions for them to do their best work.

While Motivation 2.0 required compliance, Motivation 3.0 demands engagement. Only engagement can produce mastery – becoming better at something that matters. Mastery abides by three basic rules. Mastery is a mindset – it requires the capacity to see your abilities as infinitely improvable. Mastery is a pain – it demands effort, grit and deliberate practice. And mastery is asymptote – it’s impossible to realize fully.

Autonomous people, working toward mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of a greater objective – greater than themselves – achieve even more. Thus, in Motivation 3.0, purpose maximization, along with profit maximization, is an aspiration and guiding principle. Pink contends that the “move to accompany profit maximization with purpose maximization has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world” (my emphasis).

So, if you’re running an organization, are you running on an outdated operating system or have you upgraded to Motivation 3.0, which will provide greater performance. As an individual, can you embrace the elements of Motivation 3.0 to enhance your performance within the organization?

Perhaps a greater question is, can organizations and individuals upgrade to Motivation 3.0 or are we doomed to run inefficiently on an old, obsolete operating system?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rethinking Your Comfort Zone

In the New Normal if you’re not adding value to the organization, you’re not of value to the organization. This means you can’t afford to get comfortable in your position. You need to be able to speak to your contribution to the organization; you need to be constantly contributing; and you need to be comfortable doing so.

Among the 6.5 million long term unemployed people in the U.S., many are having trouble getting out of their comfort zones. For many years, they were well rewarded for being comfortable. They worked at their companies; did their job; came in at 8 AM and left at 5 PM. Occasionally, they may have been involved in a special project or two. They survived acquisitions, restructurings, and for a time, layoffs. In the meantime, they earned a good living; received annual salary increases; they enjoyed a lifestyle that their income enabled. And they got comfortable.

The problem came when they were eventually laid off from their job. They hoped for a quick rebound. They may have taken a few weeks – or a few months – off. They may have enjoyed their time off; got some projects completed around the house; took a family vacation. Then they were ready to get back to work. They drafted a resume; one that noted that they had 20 years of experience; one that spoke to their responsibilities. They may have listed every project they worked on since graduating from college. Then they posted it on or CareerBuilder, or both. And they waited. They may have applied to a few positions that they felt they were perfect for. And they waited. They may have been contacted to sell insurance or be financial advisors, but not much more.

Weeks of unemployment stretched to months. Some have hit the year mark without a job. They may have changed tactics in their search. They may have a profile on They may be attending networking sessions with other unemployed folks. They may get the occasional interview.

What they can’t do is clearly articulate why the organization should hire them; how they would add value to the organization. What they did for 20 some odd years isn’t of value any longer. They are members of the “Too’s Club:” too experienced, too old, too expensive.

Over the years they’ve gotten comfortable with their lifestyle and their perceptions of work. They’ve known their roles with the company and what was expected of them. As long as they met expectations, they were safe.

Unfortunately, expectations have changed. It’s not enough to meet or even exceed expectations. These days, you have to be able to define expectations. You have to be able to say how you can meet the organizations needs, which means you need to know what their needs are. And you have to show how you've been successful in similar situations in the past: “I’ve done it before; I can do it for you.”

All this means you have to rethink what you’ve done; how it affected the organization (the company or the team) you were part of. What were your accomplishments? How can they be applied to the organization you’re interested in now?

This also means that the role you’re seeking may be very different from the roles you’ve had in the past. An organization (company or team) may be willing to hire you, but only in a temporary, project-based role. Once the project is over, you’re done. You may spend the next ten-to-fifteen years of your career going from company to company, from project to project. You may have to get comfortable with being the person who finds work, rather than having work assigned to you by someone else.

This could well be the world of work in the New Normal. Can you rethink your comfort zone? Can you work completely differently than you have in the past? Can you adapt to the New Normal?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Re-calibrating Value in the New Normal

I wrote about the “New Normal,” and how it applies to career management, a few weeks ago. Basically, the new normal is a whole new way of doing business – both in terms of how organizations operate and in the talent they recruit. In this new normal, businesses will rely on people who can contribute to the bottom line – who can bring real value to the organization. Moreover, to recruit such talent, they will rely on referrals from people they trust. Thus for the job seeker, demonstrating one’s value and nurturing one’s network are paramount to success in the new normal.

Demonstrating value is about telling your story of how you have influenced outcomes. Relying on number of years’ experience, listing responsibilities of past positions, doesn’t convey value. Not in the new normal. You have to articulate how that experience and how those responsibilities contributed to the organization’s goals; to its bottom line. You have to tell a story that demonstrates value: You've done it before, you can do it again.

So how do you re-calibrate years of experience and increasing levels of responsibility to value? You begin by focusing on accomplishments rather than responsibilities and you fashion stories that reflect these accomplishments; and you do it concisely. There are a number of acronyms to frame your stories: CARs, SARs, STARs and SOARs. Each focuses on a problem, situation or opportunity that required action; the action taken to address them, and the results or outcomes of those actions and their impacts on the organization. Look back at your recent assignments and your achievements. Fit them into the model – context, action, results – and determine your value.

A number of my clients protest that they can’t determine the value of their actions. Results don’t have to be measured quantitatively in terms of dollars earned or saved or time saved. Results can be qualitative as well. Perhaps you initiated a new strategy that changed the direction of a program in trouble or turned around a disgruntled customer. Maybe you trained staff in the outsourced assembly or manufacture of a product. Or you might have convinced a group of decision makers to go in a different direction, which made the organization more relevant in its market.

One way to determine your value on a project is to take yourself out of the equation. What would have happened if you weren’t there? Kind of like Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you hadn’t been involved in the project, would the outcome been the same? If not, that’s your value. You were able to influence the outcome for the better – for the team, for the organization.

Many clients, especially men, note that they can’t take credit for outcomes as they were part of a successful team. Actually, they can, and so much the better as most work in today’s organizations occurs in teams. If you were part of a four person team that developed a new, successful approach to a tough problem, it doesn’t mean you take 25 percent of the credit. Each member of the team can take 100 percent of the credit. What you can’t do is take 100 percent credit and portray the successful result as individual effort.

Once you have determined your value, tell your story. Tell it in an interview in response to the questions “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths.” Tell it to your friends and colleagues in your network. Don’t be obtuse about it. Don’t pitch everyone you run across about the great things you’ve achieved in your career when you meet them. Find out what their challenges are. Remind them, gently, how you've been successful with similar challenges in the past. Let them know what you can to for them.

In today’s highly competitive environment, where more candidates are competing for limited positions, conveying one’s value is critical to success. In the new normal, where organizations seek talent that will contribute to its bottom line, conveying value is vital. It differentiates you from everyone else, from the competition.

Have you re-calibrated your value for the new normal? Can you tell stories of the value you bring to an organization?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back to the Future: My First Blog Post

I wrote my first blog post back in November 2008; problem was I didn’t have a blog to post it to at the time. The post was based on one that Seth Godin, the author and entrepreneur, posted on his blog, Marketing lessons from the US election, where he commented on the successful elements of the Obama’s campaign for the presidency. His comments really resonated with me as they relate to people in their job searches. With a few adaptations, below is what I drafted at the time. Read Godin’s post first; then read mine below. Regardless of your political persuasion, can you see the lessons for marketing yourself in your job search?

Stories really matter. People need to talk about their accomplishments rather than their responsibilities. Stories about what you’ve accomplished throughout your career add value to prospective employers. However, the stories need to be relevant and concise, to the point. If the audience can’t relate to the story it’s no good. If the story teller rambles on, they’re losing the audience and the story is no good.

TV is over. What Godin is talking about here is broadcasting. Tactics like direct mail are not effective. Hiring and HR managers are busy people and are selective about what they want to read. Saturating the airwaves / mail doesn’t do any good. While you need to employ technology more in your search, it needs to be strategic technology.

Permission matters. This is where social networks, like, come in. By reaching out to select folks on LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter, asking permission to connect with them and taking care of the list of connections, you build a network that can help in finding the next position. Frankly, this is where you ought to be focusing your job search efforts.

Marketing is tribal. By building the list of decision makers from sites like LinkedIn and nurturing the list, you identify your tribe. For example, PMPs (Project Management Professionals) know intuitively that their tribe members are other project managers with PMP certification. They know how other PMPs will behave, what processes they employ to do their work. Engineers are another tribe; as are IT folks (although with many “sub cultures” within them – developers, DBAs, network administrators, etc.). What about people looking to join a new tribe, those unsure about what they want to do next or knowing they want to do something else? Again, they can use social networks to identify tribes which they might want to join. Not create a new tribe, but find a new tribe. Identifying one’s tribe is critical to success.

Motivating the committed…By creating lists of decision makers who are asked permission to be on the list; by nurturing them and becoming a member of their tribe; by seeking their advice and keeping them apprised of the unfolding situation, you build a network of motivated tribal members who will act on your behalf.

So how is your search campaign unfolding? Are you using marketing techniques that are effective or are you doing the same old, same old? And how’s that working for you?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ctrl_Alt_Del: Time to Reboot Your Search?

So you’ve been engaged in your job search for some time and you’re getting discouraged. Lots (perhaps hundreds) of applications have been completed – online and on paper – and nary a word from the HR departments. Frustrating no? So maybe it’s time to rethink your approach; to reboot your search.

Let’s review your basic tools and how they’re being used in your search.

First off, your resume: How’s it working for you? Does it tell the story about the value you bring? Does it differentiate you from others or are you just part of the pack? Are you specific about what you’re looking for or do you show that you’re so desperate you’ll do anything? Are you leaving it up to the reader- whether HR or hiring manager – to figure out what your strengths are and how you can meet their needs? If so, that’s unfortunate, as they don’t have the time to figure out how you can fit in their organization.

Second, your online presence: Oh, you don’t have an online presence? You’re not on LinkedIn for example? Hmmm, how’s that been working for you? You should have, at minimum, a profile on Your LinkedIn profile should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Together, they help establish your brand. You can scoff about this “branding thing,” but the reality is if you can’t demonstrate unique value, you’re part of the pack; no way will you stand out in the current competitive market for talent. Moreover, recruiters, HR folk and hiring managers are relying more and more on online searches to identify potential candidates. If you’re not out there, you’re not there.

Third, your network: How’s it working for you? Are you connecting with the right people – that is, are you connecting with decision makers who can either hire you or point you in the direction of someone who can? Are you letting friends and former colleagues know specifically what you’re looking for? Are you telling them the right story about what it is you do best? Conversely, are you helping those in your network? Are you expressing an interest in their concerns and challenges, or are your conversations all about you? Remember, networking is a process, not an event.

Interviewing: Often a new client will tell me “if I can get in front of people, if I can get the interview, I know I can get the job.” Many clients will halt their search once they have an interview. “It went well,” they’ll say; “we really connected, it turns out we both went to the same college and we’re both big Rockies fans.” “So,” I’ll ask, “what are their big challenges (the company’s, not the Rockies)? What was it about your resume they liked? What do they look for in building their team (again, the company, not the Rockies)? What’s the next step? How did you follow up afterwards?” Blank stares.

If any of this sounds familiar, it may be time to reboot your search. Start over. Develop a resume that expresses the value you’ve accumulated. Make sure it tells the story you desire – where you want to go; not where you’ve been. Develop an online presence that complements your resume. Post a profile on LinkedIn and participate in the community. Join groups and participate in their discussions; answer questions that demonstrate expertise; build connections that matter. Develop your brand. Use and nurture your network. Connect with people you don’t already know; get to know them. Find out what their challenges are. Be seen as a resource. Connect them to others who might help them. Research the company before the interview. Know what their challenges are. Ask questions about how they intend to address these challenges. Tell brief stories about how you’ve addressed similar challenges. Be seen as a resource. Follow up. Don’t just send a thank you note, but reiterate how you’re the best candidate for the job. Note how your past experience and current skills fit what their looking for; be specific. Create your brand.

So, is it time to reboot your search? To develop new tools that are more effective; that tell your story and identify your brand?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Change the Conversation

Whether networking or evaluating employment prospects we tend to assess how we feel about the opportunity: How can this new person I’ve met help me? Does the compensation for the new job fit my goals? Will I have the authority to accomplish what is expected of me?

As job seekers, we’re encouraged to know and articulate our value; tell our story; build our brand. And I’m among the guilty: working with clients to get them comfortable conveying the value they bring to the table.

An unintended consequence is the What’s In It For Me syndrome or WIIFM in today’s electronic shorthand; a rather egocentric approach to a conversation, where we’re pitching ourselves and our talents to anyone willing to listen.

How many of us want to engage in conversations where the purpose is for someone to pitch us on how good they are? How many of us are comfortable in conversations where we feel compelled to pitch ourselves?

But what if the conversation changed? What if, instead of pitching ourselves, our intention is to find out how the other guy is doing? What’s on their mind? What are their big challenges and problems? Maybe, instead of WIIFM, we ask HAYD How Are You Doing – or WOYMWhat’s On Your Mind?

Now how do you feel? If you’re asking someone what their problems are, are you more inclined to listen to how you might help them? Does your intention flow from being of assistance rather than from pitching yourself?

Shifting the conversation doesn’t absolve you from knowing and articulating your value. It just means that you’re not obligated to lead with you, but how you might help. So change the conversation. Ask about how they’re doing; and listen to what they say.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The New Normal

I’ve been participating in a conversation on on how the world of searching for new jobs has changed and how to define the “new normal” relative to career management and job searches. This discussion got me to thinking about the new normal and how it will play out in the world of work.

The first thing I did was Google “the new normal,” which yielded about 350,000 hits. When narrowed for “careers,” 128,000 hits emerged. The hits address everything from job search techniques by the unemployed to talent acquisition by companies. Clearly, the match of people to corporate positions and needs is of ongoing interest, even in a recession.

Two of the more interesting articles came from Stephanie Klein, of The Boomer Group, and Dan Finnigan, of Jobvite Blog. In a blog post about trends in the Denver employment market, Stephanie Klein noted that as companies begin to bring on additional talent, they are shifting in how they are finding candidates and what they’re looking for. In the “new normal, companies are seeking candidates who can have a direct and immediate impact on the bottom line.”

In a two part blog post, last December, Finnigan examined the new normal from the perspectives of both job seekers and employers. Finnigan began by noting that the new normal “means that we have to seriously rethink – and literally rework – much of what we do in business, including how we find, hire and manage people.” He noted that employers hire all the time; even in January 2009 – the worse month of job loss – when 741,000 jobs were lost, 4.4 million people were hired; many of these new hires were “strategic replacements” to bring in needed expertise and knowledge. In recruiting new hires in a recession or slow recovery, employers will focus on the highest quality candidates. In order to attract such candidates, referrals and relationships will be the preferred, low cost approach. These referrals and relationships will be created across the current and emerging social media platforms – LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter.

So what does this mean for the job seeker? According to Finnigan, “we are all jobseekers…all the time.” He mentions the need for “pro-active career management” where we’re “always looking toward the next assignment.” The key tool for this continuous career management? Networking – professional and social networking online, developing offline contacts, helping others, building a solid reputation. Moreover, we will need to continually “construct, discover and fuel” our networks; not relying on any one technology, but “weave” it into all we do.

So, as a continuous jobseeker that has to demonstrate bottom line impacts, what’s your career management strategy for the new normal? How will you let people know about the value you can provide prospective employers? What will be your new normal in a world of constant change?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lemonade Video

My friend, Dan Larson, pointed me to this inspiring video about folks turning lay-off lemons into creative lemonade. Check it out.

Can you take a pink slip and make it into a blank page?

Are you inspired by the stories in this video?

What can you put on your blank page?

How can you make lemonade?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Relaxed, Refreshed, Renewed

Camille and I have returned from our annual Mexico vacation. We’ve found a great little resort, Merece Tus Sueños, in the fishing village of Troncones on the Pacific Coast where we’ve stayed the past two years.

A critical goal of our vacation, of course, is to relax. I take a bunch of novels with me and plow through them. This tends to push out the stressed based work stuff and makes room for new thoughts, ideas and goals. Camille achieves her relaxation by heading to the beach and spending much of the day in the water, body surfing.

Another critical goal for us is to refresh; to begin the process of thinking of new goals – both personal and professional – we want to accomplish in the coming year. We spend a lot of time talking about where we see ourselves a year down the road.

Finally, we look to be renewed; to come out of our 10 to 12 days excited about tackling the goals we’ve decided upon.

As I thought about my goals for 2010, I borrowed a technique from Chris Brogan. Chris is a social media marketing expert, who recently wrote about his annual approach to goal setting. He basically comes up with three words to frame his activities for the year. You can read about his three words for 2010 here.

So, borrowing from Chris, I came up with my own three words to frame my activities for 2010: Partnership, Connection, and Networking. These are relatively interrelated words, meant to frame how I will work with clients and colleagues throughout the year.

Partnership reflects how I see my relationships with clients and colleagues. Rather than a subject matter expert who provides a specialized service, I see myself as a strategic partner whose skills and expertise complements those of my clients and colleagues. I hope to grow that feeling of partnership with those with whom I work. To me, this is the most rewarding aspect of working with people.

Connection relates to how I want to be in the world in which I work. As a partner to clients and colleagues, I want to relate to their needs and desires relative to the projects we’re engaged in. I don’t need to know everything that’s going on in their lives, but I do want to know what’s motivating them regarding the project we’re working on.

Networking is my third word. It refers to the fact that I need to take my own advice and reach out to people. I’ve been so busy working for clients the past year that I’ve neglected my own network. To this end, I will be reaching out to folks who are first degree connections in my network. For this idea, I thank my friend Erika Hanson Brown, networker extraordinaire, who started her own exploration of first degree connections on LinkedIn and has inspired me to do the same. So expect a call or an invitation for coffee over the next few weeks.

So, how are you framing your actions on your 2010 goals – especially those related to your career or job search? Do you have three words around which you can organize your efforts? What three words or concepts can inspire you and renew your energy around your career?