Job Search Success – Focus & Discipline

Looking for a new job can be overwhelming and it seems that a lot of people are doing a lot of exploring right now.   I see an article every day about “the great resignation”.  I don’t believe for a minute that everyone is looking for something new. 

Sure, there are people who banked a lot of money over the last 18 months.  No travel, no commuting expenses, no gym membership, no frosted highlights.  If all that cash went into savings, then there is a group of people who have a newly found cushion.  They can afford to use their f*&k you money to do just that – quit without a new job to go to.

Most people are not in that position but they are frustrated enough with their return to work/company/boss/pay situation to want to find something better.

Looking for a job when you have a job is one of the hardest things to do.  It takes focus and discipline.  Those things are not always available in abundance when you are juggling the rest of your life.

Focus – it is easy to go down the rabbit hole when you start reading job postings on LinkedIn.  45 minutes later you have imagined yourself as an aquanaut, a flavor developer for Pringles and dozen other things for which you are not even remotely qualified.

Decide on the three most important things your new job should have.  Write them down.  Use them to set up filters so you see only relevant jobs.  That keeps things a little more efficient.

Discipline – block time in your calendar to work on your job search.  Looking at postings on Sunday night when you are dreading Monday morning is not the best frame of mind. 

Try blocking a couple of lunch time sessions and an evening.  Try for three times a week, just like going to the gym.  Plan your sessions.  You want to apply for posted roles but that should only be 20-30% of your time. You also want to spend time reconnecting with former colleagues and people you know from volunteering.  Also, consider your current colleagues.  Take a few into your confidence that you are starting to think about something new.  You never know who will make the key suggestion or introduction that will get you into the best job of your life.

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Finance or Fiancé? Figure It Out

Gold and Diamond Solitaire Ring

I was poking around in LinkedIn today.  I accepted an invitation to connect (even though it was an un-creative, un-personal invitation) and after I accepted, the lovely LinkedIn algorithm told me about a whole bunch of other people I might know or want to be connected to.

As my eyes drifted down the list, I was shocked and dismayed and I am not being dramatic at all. First, there was someone in a Controller role whose tagline was that she was an expert in “fiancé and analysis”.  Come on.  There may be only one letter missing but what a difference in credibility, especially when a key characteristic of a successful finance person is attention to detail.  The accounting office is down the hall and to the left.  The marriage license office is in a whole different building.

Then there were three people who referred to themselves without using capital letters or only used capitals on some of the words.

  • Mechanical engineering Specialist
  • Customer Service supervisor

Call it grammar or call it low self-esteem but whatever the reason, fix it.  You are a professional person in a professional position.  Tell us what it is with respect and authority.

While I was on a roll, I looked up the profiles of two people I know.  Their profiles had titles, dates and company names but no descriptions of what they do.  I know, for a fact, that these two women have complicated and demanding jobs but it was not at all reflected in their profiles.  That’s like offering someone a ham and cheese sandwich and then just giving them a plate with two pieces of bread and a pickle.  It may look attractive but it will never fill you up.

Maybe people just don’t care what their profile says.  Maybe their profile is there just because someone told them to “get on LinkedIn”.  That’s okay but don’t expect it to turn any heads if there is nothing to see.

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Giving Notice the Right Way

You are beside yourself with glee.  You have just accepted a fantastic new job.  It checks all the boxes: people, scope, location and money.  Yippee!

What to do next?

It is important to plan your next steps with care and respect.  Leaving a job nicely is a pretty big part of managing your career and your reputation.

Think about how much notice you need to provide to your current employer.  Check your employment agreement.  Many stipulate two or three weeks.  You may think you are being magnanimous by offering four weeks but in most cases, it is not necessary.

Then, write a letter of resignation.  Make it formal but friendly.  Thank your manager for providing such a great opportunity to learn and grow.  Lay out the details of your last day and offer to do anything they need for a smooth transition.

Be prepared for anything and everything when you sit down and hand over the letter.  Managers do not like it when someone resigns.  It catches them by surprise and then they look bad to their bosses.  That’s where counter offers come in to play.

When faced with an unplanned gap in the team, suddenly there is more money to give you.  Maybe they really were thinking of promoting you but the fact is, they didn’t and you have chosen to go somewhere else.

Be firm and resolute.  Think about (but don’t share) all the reasons you are going to a new and better place.

Once the initial shock wears off, they will figure out who will take over your tasks and life will go on.  That’s why a couple of weeks is almost always fine. It’s not like you can get involved in long term planning.  You also get left out of a lot of conversations that might be proprietary.  No one wants to feel like their secrets might be walking out the door.

So you go.  Your colleagues and managers will wish you well and hopefully, some of them will buy you a beer and some nachos and wish you the best.

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Can I Bring my Dog?

So you sent in your resume and now you have an interview next Thursday.  Now what?  Don’t just pace and eat chocolate – get constructive.

  1. Get a haircut.  Don’t wait until the day before – those funny tan lines will give it away.
  2. Research, research, research.  Not just on the company website but newspapers, trade websites, LinkedIn – the whole nine yards.  Find out what’s been happening there lately – awards, new projects, new executives.
  3. Lay out your clothes to make sure you have everything you need including shoes and socks that are clean and neat (even on video, this is important).
  4. If you are meeting in person, think about what you will need to bring with you and what you want to put it in.  You can go with a briefcase, folio or satchel.  I would avoid a huge purse or backpack – too distracting.  It looks like you are sleeping over, not just there for a meeting.
  5. Print several copies of your resume on nice paper. Gather any reference letters, articles, awards and make copies of them, too.  When you offer a copy of your resume to the interviewer, you can also offer some of the other material.  It makes you look organized and accomplished. If it’s a video meeting, you can have them ready to share on your screen. You will really look like a star then.
  6. You might want to have a nice pen with you too.  It adds an extra bit of polish when you whip it out to make notes.

I hate to point out the obvious but don’t bring:

  • Your dog
  • Your Timmie’s medium double double (even if it’s still warm)
  • Anything that rings, beeps or buzzes

Remember that an interview is just a conversation about a potential shared future. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.

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Anxiety about the Future of Work

I have been reading a lot about job trends and what our work lives will be like in the future.  This is, as you would expect, something I have always done but it all has a new tone now.  Nothing like a pamdemic to speed up innovation tenfold.  It is fascinating to see the broad spectrum of opinion about this.  Some people think that robots and AI will eliminate all work as we know it.  Others think that robots and technology will enhance what we humans can do on our own and therefore make work better.

When I think back on my career in recruiting, a lot has changed in terms of the process and tools available to me .  I no longer have to stand beside  fax machine watching the pages pass through to make sure they don’t jam. I don’t have to flip through pages and pages of resumes in file folders  (that  were  never  in  the  right  order).  

Now, I can sit at a computer anywhere and have access to anything.  I can send information to a client or a candidate with the mere click of a button.

In the end, the process of what I do remains the same regardless of the state of technology.  I listen to what my client needs and then talk with lots of people until I find the right people with the right skills to fit the bill and find happiness.

Technology is  great enabler.  LinkedIn, Twitter and fancy databases provide easy access to all kinds of information but I still need critical thinking, writing and listening skills to do my job well.  Those cannot be replaced by any kind of AI.

When Apple and Microsoft first came out with programs like Word and Draw, we were suddenly able to make our work look totally professional.  My words looked like a manuscript. It was so cool.  It was a real come-down to realize that just because it looked like it had been published, did not make it publish-able.  It was still just words on a page by a budding recruiter.

The lesson here, is for all of us to continue to use our critical thinking skills to question how we use technology and to put the new tools to work in the best way possible. After all, they don’t call it “human” resources for nothing.

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Match Game – how to get your resume noticed

I had Zoom coffee last week with a candidate who was really frustrated because he had applied for lots of positions and not been contacted.

I asked him to tell me about one of them.  “Well, it was a mechanical engineering position in a manufacturing company.”

“What were they looking for?” I asked.

“An engineering degree and 5 years of design experience in a plastics manufacturing environment.  It was perfect for me.  It’s exactly the kind of company I want to work for.  I can’t understand why they have not called me yet for an interview.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that while he did have experience in plastics, it was in equipment design not product design and that he did not have an engineering degree.

So at the risk of sounding harsh, I told him why he had not been called.  There were three criteria listed in the posting and he met only one.  In a resume sorting system, whether it’s human or digital, he won’t make the cut.

“But that’s not fair!” he wailed.  “I would be perfect for the role!”

That may be true but if you are replying to a posting where there are clear specifications, you better have most of them if you want to be considered.  Companies have reasons for their criteria and it really does not matter whether you think you are perfect or whether the criteria is justified.

If you are an “out of the box” candidate, then you need to apply in an “out of the box” method.  If your resume does not make the kind of impression you want to make, then you need to find a better way to make your first impression.

Find someone who can introduce you to a hiring influencer.  Speak at a conference or workshop.    Post a comment on a Linkedin discussion or write an article. These avenues allow your expertise, presence and general aura to make the first impression.

Bottom line: At the application stage, it does not matter if you think you are perfect for the role.  What matters is that there is a clear match between your experience/credentials and the posted criteria.

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How to Work with Recruiters during a Pandemic

During the first part of the pandemic, there were two types of people – those who were directly impacted by restrictions and lockdowns and were definitely in need of a new job. Then there were others who were holding on to their jobs for dear life amidst the change to virtual or the physical changes in their workplaces.

Now, a year and half later, the lines are not so clear. There are still people who need a new job right now but there are a bunch of other groups too. People who are fed up with their managers or are not ready to go back to the office. People who are still balancing childcare and work in a messy swirl. People who are rethinking their relationship to work and what it should look like.

Couple this with the number of jobs that are open right now and you have a challenging time for us in the recruitment world. Lots of jobs and lots of candidates but very hard to get a match.

When you are working with a recruiter, there some things to keep in mind.

Be clear on your objectives. What kind of change are you looking for? Location, bigger team, new product, more innovative – any of these are valid. If you are not sure what would be better, you might want to think on it or talk with friends outside work before starting down the interview path. You probably don’t have time to spend going in the wrong direction.

As an example, finding out the the salary is 30% less than your minimum after four interviews is heart breaking and a big waste of time and energy.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the recruiter. They are representing you in the marketplace. Will they tell your story correctly? Will they advocate in the right manner and respect your priorities?

Share what you can about your current situation. What things are you juggling in your life? How much time do you have to commit to the search? What kind of flexibility to do you have?

All of these factors affect how a search will play out whether you are a candidate or a hiring manger (or both!)

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How to Make the Most of an Information Interview

Information interviews are pretty popular these days. They can be a great way to learn about different roles and different organizations. These conversations, usually more casual than an actual interview, also provide a great platform for you to leave a lasting and positive impression.

But only if you are prepared.

So don’t blow it.

When someone grants you some of their valuable time, be respectful and use the time wisely. Do some thinking and research before you go. What specifically do you want to know? What knowledge do you want to take away from the meeting?

  • What was the most valuable part of their education?
  • How do they deal with the challenges of their job?  You can show off your knowledge here by citing a particular challenge.
  • Is this where they imagined they would be at this point in their career?
  • What is the best piece of advice they ever got?

Notice that there are two questions that are not on the list. How do I get hired here and will you be my mentor? These questions are out of bounds for this type of conversation. They should only come up if it is initiated by the person you are meeting.

The point of the meeting is to get information, not ask for a job. Respect that. Powerful and interesting questions will allow you to make the most of your time together. And if you are going to shower, shave and put on a jacket, you want to get the best return on that investment as possible.

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It’s Thursday….Do You Know Where Your Resume is?

Job opportunities seem to be flying thick and fast these days. Companies are making their “move forward” plans which often involve new leaders and differently skilled teams.

People, in general, seem to be reevaluating their work specifically or as part of their work-life continuum. Job postings on LinkedIn are getting lots of views and recruiters’ calls are being answered.

With all this action, you are bound to be presented with an opportunity that you actually want to explore. Something that sounds like a great next chapter – better boss, better mission, better growth – any of these things might grab your attention.

Moving to the next step almost always involves sending a resume. There might be a rare case where you are known to a company and you can secure a first interview without one but eventually, even when you are known in your industry, you are going to need to provide a resume.

When this happens, you want to have it close at hand. Last week, I ran into three people who were very interested in the job that I presented but it took them four days to get a resume to me and it was a crappy one at that. This was due to the fact that their resumes resided only on a home computer and it had crashed.

Making a resume on the fly is not good. You need time to consider what you want to include and not include, the best layout/format and of course, to have it spell checked by someone else. This takes several segments of your time.

When an opportunity has really grabbed your attention, you don’t want to have a sub-standard resume. You want to present a document that represents you with strength. Something you are proud of.

The lesson here is to a) keep your resume up to date and b) keep it accessible and secure. Almost everyone has access to some kind of free cloud based filing cabinet – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive. Just don’t keep it on an old home PC or Tablet. That’s a recipe for stress and considering a new role is stressful enough.

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Questions for Today’s Interview

There are standard questions that I suggest for every job interview but in today’s work situation, there are some new ones that you might want to slot into your agenda.

Where is the work? This is on everyone’s mind right now. In the office or remote? Or some of each?  Be clear on what will work for you and your family.  Maybe working from home was the best thing ever. Maybe you miss the energy and free coffee of the office.

What changed in the group over the last 18 months?  The answer will give you insight into how your potential new team handled the changes brought on by the pandemic.   If the answer focuses on Zoom and Teams and little else, that probably means they have held their own but not seen any new growth or innovation.  If the answer includes faster paced product releases or better ties with their customers/other teams, then you are looking at a more dynamic group.

What has the turnover been?  This answer will tell you a lot.  Did they have lay offs at the beginning?  Have people left recently?  Was it team members or leaders?  You will get insight into how the organization treated their people at the beginning and how people are reacting today. 

Where is the organization investing for the future?  This allows the hiring team to demonstrate to you how connected they are to the bigger picture.  The details they provide will help you establish what they want to do over the next few years and whether it aligns with what you want to do.

Compensation.  Talking about compensation is not new but it is more important than ever.  What does the package consist of?  Is there a bonus plan?  Is it tied to personal achievements or team/organizational achievements?  Is the pay different if you are remote or onsite? Is the company offering a salary that is way above what you earn now? If so, try to figure out why. Are you signing up for 7×24 response rates or a 60 hour work week?

There are way too many questions here to ask in the typical interview. Pick the main ones that you want to ask and then keep the others in mind (or in your notes) to make sure that you the information you need to make a solid decision about moving forward with the role.

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