Talk Time – Chat your way through the Pandemic

It’s now two days after Labour Day and no one cares if we are wearing white pants or really, pants at all.  There is too much going on for us to even care about pants.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but I thought after Labour Day, things would feel different.  The mornings are cooler and the school buses are on the road but everything feels just as tentative and unsure as it did in the spring and summer.

As we face another season of limited entertainment and travel options, we have to make sure we stay connected and attached to our family, friends and community.  It’s not just good for your career.  It’s good for the rest of your life too.

I am lucky.  My husband and I worked together and then became friends, friends with benefits and then old married people.  We each have our own work space and we have lunch and snacks together most days.  And even though it works well, he will be the first to tell you that I need to interact with other people every day and I mean, EVERY day.

I have weekly video calls with people from my volunteer group, my family, my neighbours and former colleagues.   These conversations have proven to be essential for helping balance the stress and loneliness.  I go into each conversation with no expectations – just open and in the moment to hear what’s going on in people’s lives.  I am continuously surprised and inspired (a big thank you to those of you who hang out with me every week!).  I have a new found appreciation for the circles of the Venn Diagram that intersect in my Zoom room.

The other thing that has been satisfying (besides sour dough bread and smoking meat) has been participating in virtual services at a synagogue in Manhattan.  By participating, I mean singing along with the music and prayers at the top of my lungs.  Talk about satisfying!

I can’t say what will work for you but I can suggest that you start getting some conversations with new people going.  Call a friend.  If you are enjoying it, ask if they mind making it a recurring get together.  Send out Zoom invites that go until Christmas.   Ask if they think someone else should be included.

Get deliberate with your communications.  Waiting for random things to happen may not be enough to keep your energy up over the next few months of this Covid shit.

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How to Ace the Phone Interview

Picture this: your phone pings with a personal email.  You take a look.  It’s a recruiter asking to talk with you about a job.  You send a note back with a time and then sit back to try to figure out what you are going to say.

Before the Call

  • Read about the opportunity.
  • Think about what you would find appealing in a new role or a new manager or a new company.
  • Plan where you want to be for the call.  Your home office is great.  If your house gets loud (and who’s doesn’t?), head out to the car.  Its quiet and chances are, no one will find you to ask where to find the snacks or the dental floss.
  • Be ready to talk about your responsibilities and career path.
  • Make sure your phone is charged.
  • Have a list of questions ready to ask.
  • Take a few deep breaths and wait for the phone to ring.

During the Call

  • Wait for the full question to be asked.  Resist the temptation to jump on the answer before you actually know  the question.
  • Speak as clearly as possible.  Slow down a little. Pause often, even for just a moment.
  • Keep your answers concise.
  • Make sure to ask about the next steps in the process so you can be prepared.

After the Call

  • Send a note acknowledging the conversation.
  • Write some notes about what you learned.
  • Think about what you want to do about the opportunity.
  • If you are not going to pursue it, maybe there is someone you know who might find it appealing.  Passing on this sort of information to a friend or former colleague is always very appreciated.
  • You can turn what was a luke warm conversation into big pile of good karma.

Way After the Call

If you have not heard anything after a week, you can send a note.  If a few more days pass without any news, you can leave a voice mail.  After that, move on.  The company may just have a long process or someone may be away.  They will contact you if they want you and then it will be your choice to pursue or not.

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Need Some Accountability? Join the 10:11 Club

I have not used my alarm clock since March.  I don’t have to catch at train at the crack of dawn and I don’t miss it all.  That is not to say I have been sleeping in.  Nope, as the chief dog walker, I get up when the canine bladder demands it (and he has no snooze button…..)

This week, for a reason I don’t know, the canine slept in. It was delightful until I realized that I had not gotten out of my sleep pajamas and into my work pajamas and it was well past noon.

Without things like commutes and coffee with colleagues, the days can just fly by.  We do the stuff that must be done but other not-so-urgent tasks just kind of stay on the list.

It’s a bit embarrassing when you boss asks about a thing you were working on and your only response is, “oh yeah….about that….”

I heard about a really great idea on how to solve for this.  It’s called the 10:11 Club and it’s a concept invented by Kara Cutruzzula. (You can read more about her ideas here.)  Every morning before 10:11, you declare what you are going to work on and then you work on that thing until noon.  It can be a bike ride, a piece of work, a clean up – really anything that has been hanging around on your task list too long.

You can broadcast it on Twitter or stick a note to your computer or your fridge but it’s more effective if you have a buddy. Kara said that it started with just her and her brother but now they have a few more people in the circle.  She said its cool to see what others are working on but mostly she said it’s been good to have an accountability built into her day.

So simple it’s genius.  Join the 10:11 club and see what you can accomplish.

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What to do about a Jumpy Career?

I had two clients this week who decided they did not want to interview candidates because they looked “too jumpy”.  I pressed for more details. Their perception was that the candidates might not stick around for long.

Meanwhile, the candidates were asking me about the company and whether it was stable.  They wanted to know if it had a good history, if it was Canadian or if it has headquarters elsewhere and what the future looked like.

Does that sound like they were looking to jump ship after six months?  Of course not.

It is ironic  that hiring managers hang so much on whether a candidate demonstrates long tenure at each position. Meanwhile, they cannot offer any guarantee that in two years the company or even the role will be the same in that same period of time.

Mergers and acquisitions, retirements, pandemics and technology advance all affect the way companies conduct business and the humans they need to be successful.  Employees do their best to stay relevant and keep up, but at the end of the day, leaders choose to swap out those employees for others with different skills when required by the business.

Just because someone gets restructured does not mean that they do not work hard or offer great skills.  It means they were not the right person at that moment in the organization.

A well-structured interview will bring out the skills, experience and attitudes offered by a candidate. A constructive reference check will verify those characteristics based on past performance.  An independent assessment can be used to predict how the person will react in a new environment.

Those are three solid ways to validate that what you see in an interview is what you will get when the person is in the seat.

Sure, it’s an investment in time and possibly money but it does allow a hiring manager to de-risk a hiring decision.  It also allows them to tap into all the good talent not just the small slice of the candidate community that offers a particular career pattern.

As Forest Gump said, “life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…. so try them all.”

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Time for a Summer LinkedIn Makeover

If you are like most people, you have not taken a look at your LinkedIn profile for a while.  There is a reason for this:  we are too busy looking at other people’s profiles.

Think of it as a summer project.  Set aside 20 minutes each week to hit the edit button and take stock of what the world is seeing.

Let’s start from the top:

Does your picture still resemble you?  If it features your grade eight up-do or it’s a badly lit selfie, it’s time for a fresh one.  linkedin cracked button

Do you have a new title or responsibilities?  Let people know – you will be amazed at the messages that roll in after you do a job or title change.

Any new courses or certificates?  Those really add credibility to your experience.  If you put the time and effort in to learning something new, it should be reflected in your profile.

Are you doing any new volunteer activities?  They can be work-based or community-based.  It all counts.

Remember you are doing this so people can find you and learn more about you.  And not just recruiters like me (although it’s good for us to find you) but also peers, neighbours, and anyone else who might benefit from what you know.

In large companies, people don’t use the company directory to find out about their fellow employees, they go to LinkedIn to get the whole story, not just what’s in the directory.

So keep it fresh and real.  You never know who will land in your inbox!

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Gone Fishing

No pithy entry from me this week.  I am on vacation.  Going for the big battery recharge.  In fact, I am so far out of my regular, everyday schedule that I did not even realize it was Thursday.  It must be working (because I certainly am not!)

See y’all next week!

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How External Recruiters Help with Diversity

One of the best ways to change up your work groups and increase the diversity of your company is to use external recruiters and I am not just saying that because I am an external recruiter.
When you work with someone outside your company, you focused on describing what the new person is going to do and where they fit into the greater scheme of things.
You talk about the activities, responsibilities and leadership style, their technical knowledge and priorities.

The external recruiter does not know that people in your organization all went to Stanford and all play broom ball.

So the recruiter hits the candidate marketplace and starts talking about your company and the great things that are happening and within a few weeks, you have a fresh, new group of candidates who would not have applied to your posting or been a part of your employees’ networks.

There is going to be some new thinking in that group. It can be a pretty interesting experience to interview someone who understands the role but is from a different environment.

Those candidates have credibility but none of the baggage. This can be a tremendous help with innovation based roles or where a group has become a bit complacent.

The key is to keep an open mind when you are interviewing. Review your questions before hand. Be sure to spell out company specific acronyms or processes so the candidates have a fair chance to answer within the right context.

When you find the gem and hire them, make sure you have a very inclusive, comprehensive on-boarding process. Hiring managers and peers alike sometimes need to be reminded that even though someone can’t play broom ball, they can still contribute some great ideas.

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Fiancé? Really?

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 position.  Tell us what it is with respect and authority.

While I was on a roll, I looked up 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 reflected at all in their profiles.  It’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 it’s just there 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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How to Make Eye Contact on a Video Call

Over the last few months, I have gotten used to meetings with no eye contact.  It was a bit disconcerting at first.  I missed the knowing look, the flash of recognition and the other things that eyes do in a conversation.

Eye contact in interviews is especially important.  That’s where a lot of the “connection” happens between a candidate and an interviewer.  It can feel disjointed when that element is missing.

I did some thinking about this last week and tried a few experiments.  The best way to simulate eye contact is to look directly at the camera.  The trouble is that there are a bunch of other things to look at besides the camera and it is impossible to look at the camera and the person speaking at the same time.

What to do?

First, move the Zoom/Teams window as close to the camera lens as possible.  I work with two monitors and if I put the video call window on the upper screen, the person I am speaking with gets a lovely view of my neck.  (heavy sarcasm there – at my age, my neck is not at all lovely).

Nudge the window right under the camera.  Then alternate looking at the camera and the person in the video call window.  When the two are pretty close, it might feel like your eyes are flitting in a maniacal fashion, but it won’t look that way on the other end.

The second thing to do, and this takes practice, is to look into the camera when you are speaking.  You don’t have to do this for everything you say but when you are saying something substantial or telling a great story, look right into the camera.  It feels weird but it really makes a difference.

I tried this with several colleagues and a couple of candidates last week and they said it really made a difference.

Your eyes will get a bit tired at first, but it won’t take long for it to feel more natural.

Try it on a couple of calls.  Don’t tell anyone what you are doing but at the end of the call, ask if they noticed anything different.  I bet they will.

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Supporting Outplaced Colleagues

There is nothing like the pain of a lunchtime bikini wax to really bring things into perspective.

I stopped thinking about why some hairs grow faster than others and started thinking about important things like keeping in touch with people who are leaving my everyday work life.

My company has had some layoffs and it impacted me in some pretty intense ways.  Finding out that your friends and sponsors no longer have a place in the organization is pretty tough.  But it took a blinding flash of pain for me to realize that it is not about me.  I still have a job.  They need my support in a different way than before and I need to figure out how to provide it.

I need to make sure that I reach out regularly.  I know that my tendency is to get wrapped up in my everyday projects.  I guess I should put some notes in my calendar, just to make sure they stay on my radar.

I imagine they will go through alternating waves of happiness that they have some time to enjoy the summer and anger and grief that they lost their job.

It will be important for me to be supportive no matter what they are feeling.

Also, I will need to keep my eyes open for networking and referral opportunities for them.  That’s probably one of the best things I can do.  I can invite them to industry events and professional meetings. After all, we had fun when we worked together.  Why would it be any different now?

I guess I better book at spa appointment for next month.  In case I need another reminder…..

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