It’s Pretty Tough at the Bottom

There are several new grads in my circle who are looking for the job that will kick off their career.  They have had jobs all through school so the act of applying, interviewing and getting hired is not new for them.

I have come to appreciate that looking for a full time role is harder than finding a part-time-to-get-me-through-school job. 

My son, for example, is looking to start in social work.  He got good grades at a good school and had great performance reviews on his co-op placements.  But you know what’s holding him back?  He does not have a car.  Almost every social work job where we live requires that the candidate have their own car with a honking big liability insurance policy.  All this on a $15/hour contract?  Really?

One of my friends kids wanted to be a paramedic.  He got great marks and loved the material and exceeded expectation on his practicums and ride-alongs.  No one told him when he started that there weren’t many job openings for paramedics.  People don’t leave.  I guess they really love it and only retire when their knees give out.

A former colleague of mine was only a colleague because she could not find a job in a library even though she had graduated at the top of her class in library science (yes, that’s a thing).  She worked with me for three years until she found a part time role that she hoped would someday become full time.

I am not trying to be all doom and gloom but I think it’s helpful that those of us who are long established in our career get a refresher on what it is like out there today.  Maybe we can keep it in mind when we are writing job postings.

Could someone who is bright, tech savvy and been multi-tasking since they could walk take on the role you need to fill?  Does it really need to be someone with three years of experience?  Could they learn the software?  (I bet if they had a VCR, it would not be flashing 000)

Let’s give this some thought – it could help lots of people who are just starting or re-starting their careers.

 

 

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Polish Your Profile – LinkedIn Tips

LinkedIn is an amazing tool for career development.  Your profile hums along attracting attention while you are off doing other things.

At least that’s how it should work.  Here are some tips to make sure you are getting noticed.

When you choose your company, make sure you use the right one.  In large corporations, there may be multiple divisions or different brands.  Look at the profiles of your colleagues and leaders to see what they chose.  

Describe your role in bullet points and make sure you use specific words that are common in your industry and area of expertise – especially technology and tools – be really specific with those.

Fill in as many of the areas of your profile as you reasonable can.  You never know what people like me will be searching for or in what area we will look.

Have a professional looking photo – no dogs, please.  And try to find something better than a clipped image from the last wedding you attended.  Try this:  get someone to take your picture right after your next haircut.  That usually works well.

This one seems so obvious but check the email attached to your LinkedIn account and make sure it’s one you actually use. Click the little triangle beside the word Me in the upper right corner.  You can review your settings and check your email address and notifications.

Post interesting things happening in your company or in your industry.  That is the sort of activity that makes you look like a dynamic person who is paying attention to things other than summer Fridays.

Join some groups that reflect your interests.  That bolsters how LinkedIn sees your expertise.

And finally, connect with people.  You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way but make sure you add at least a few people every month.  It keeps things dynamic and interesting and that’s the key to LinkedIn success.

 

 

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Interview Feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly

Getting feedback from a client after an interview is essential. It’s pretty great when a hiring manager calls to say the interviews went well and they want to move the candidates forward in the process. 

Sounds positive right?

But it’s not enough information. It’s tempting to let them off the hook and just move forward. That kind of thinking with come back to bit you later.

You need to know why they like the candidates. “He’s really nice” is not a valid reason to hire someone.

I am not saying you should hire people you can’t stand but you do need to identify what it is about their experience, style and education that makes them seem likely to fill the gap in an organization.

This is equally true when the hiring manager declares that a candidate is not a fit. What is is about them that makes them not a fit? It it something that will develop over time or a characteristic that is not likely to change?

Not knowing a company’s acronyms or specific processes can be overcome. You can even ask questions during the interview about how the candidate has gotten up to speed in the past for some reassurance. 

If the candidate shows up late, chews gum and takes a call during the interview, those might be characteristics that make that person a complete non-starter.

But be clear about what specifically is good and what is missing or misaligned. That’s the only way to increase your chances of making a successful hire.

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The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are. 

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like. 

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

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Don’t Park your Career for the Summer

Contrary to popular belief, the summer is a great time to get a new job. Sure, hiring managers go on vacation but that does not mean that all activity stops. Business goes on and plans for the fall often require new skills and more people.
Summer is rich with networking opportunities. A bunch of my friends did a big fund raising walk last week and there were a lot of corporate teams participating. It is not hard to pick out someone wearing a team jersey of one your most admired companies and strike up a conversation about walking shoes.

It’s safe to say you have more in common than just looming blisters.
And let’s not forget sports tournaments. Whether you are at a charity golf thing or your kid’s soccer tournament, you will be spending time with people you don’t know. These are prime opportunities to learn about new industries, companies and jobs.

If you meet someone interesting, jot down a couple of notes on your phone. When you get back to your regular life, find the person on LinkedIn and ask them to connect. Mention where you met in case they don’t remember.

The next time you see a job posted at their firm, you can hit them up for information.
Sometimes the conversation can turn serious pretty quickly. If you find yourself talking about your work and the person says “We should talk – give me a call on Monday”, then get their card and ask what time would be best. Do some research on the company and make the call.

Be ready. This stuff really happens. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked someone how they got their role and they start with “Well, it’s kind of a funny story…..”

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Making the Most of the Information Interview

When you are thinking about moving your career in another direction, you need information.  You need to understand what it’s really like, how it pays and if possible, how to get there.

One of the best ways to do this is the information interview. This is when someone who is in your chosen segment/field/industry agrees to sit down with you to share some of those details.

You can meet with company presidents, people who sit on industry associations, technical experts.  They are all potential sources of information to support your decision making.

When you approach people, make it clear that you are looking for information, not a job (even if, deep down, you are looking for a job). They should see meeting with you as a low risk, low maintenance opportunity to show what they know.

When you are in one of the meetings, your body language needs to be calm and relaxed.  Remember this is not about a job and it is not about you.

But that doesn’t mean you can go in unprepared.  

Think ahead of time about what you want to learn.  Have five or six questions you want to have answered. Make sure one of them focuses on the person who is giving you all this good intel.  You could ask how they got into the business or what it is that they really love about it.

Take notes if you’d like but make sure to do lots of listening.  That’s what you are there for – to listen and learn.

When the person starts to shuffle around and look like they are ready to finish, respect that.  Stand up, shake their hand and thank them for their time and willingness to share what they have shared.

It is wise to send a thank you note the next day.  It can be handwritten or emailed – It’s a great way to show how much you appreciated the respect they gave you.

You might want to drop a note to the person who referred you.  We frequently lose sight of those people and let’s face it, in many cases, they really got the ball rolling for you.

Information interviews really are a great way to get the inside info on what’s going on – make the most of them.

 

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When Headhunters Apply for Jobs

I got a good refresher on the candidate experience this week.  I was surfing around LinkedIn when I saw an interesting job posted.  It looked like something I might want to do.  I hemmed and hawed for a while on the decision-making teeter totter.  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  I like what I do but what if there is something better?

I took a deep breath and  sent an email.  Whew.

Then I went about my day and forgot all about it.  Until two days later when it dawned on me that no one had called me.  All of the sudden, I was back in sixth grade.  Do they like me? Was I too forward?  Am I barking up the wrong tree?  When should I call to follow up?  Now?  Maybe I should wait.  For about ten minutes, I was like a dog chasing my tail.

Then the phone rang.  It was not the employer.  It was a client.  I got my head back in the game and forgot about the whole thing.

Later, I actually did get a call from the headhunter.  We had a nice chat.  Ultimately, we decided that my experience did not quite fit the employer’s wish list.   This was not heartbreaking news.  I love what I do and I am doing it in one of the best places to do it.  It was an interesting exercise that confirmed exactly what I thought: I am in the right place for right now.

It was also an interesting exercise because it reminded me what it’s like to be a candidate: putting it out there, waiting for some feedback, trying to continue focusing on other things while you wait to see if you are wanted.  An excellent lesson indeed.

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