How Big is your BUT?

September 21, 2009

Removing self-imposed obstacles to your career success
I’ve been in the selling business for over 15 years now – recruiting is a selling activity on steroids.  I spend my day selling ideas to job seekers, selling candidate strengths to clients, getting candidates excited about opportunities, you get the idea.  I’m also a student of selling methods and one of my favorite sales gurus is Jeffrey Gitomer.  One of his recent articles was titled “How bit is your but?” about how sales people take credit when they make a sale, but play the blame game when they don’t.  This idea is wonderfully relevant in the case of your current job search.
First, let’s get an understanding of your current state.  You are either unemployed or underemployed and want to change that situation.  That means that you are in selling mode; you are selling yourself, your experience, your character and your market value at every stage of the job search process.  There is no other way to look at it; you are in sales.  Get rid of the stigma attached to the term sales.  If you’ve ever convinced a 4 year old to take their cough medicine or a teenager to take out the trash you’ve sold. 
Now this article isn’t about selling, it’s about how big your ‘but’ is.  The greatest obstacle to getting a job is you.  How many of these whines can you identify with?
  1. I need to look for a job, but the garage needs to be cleaned (or the basement, or the kitchen).
  2. I’ve submitted dozens of applications but I don’t get any responses.
  3. I need to make follow up calls but I have to take my son to music lessons.
  4. I start writing cover letters, but the kids are constantly interrupting me.
  5. I set aside time in the evening for company research but once the dishes are done and the kids have finished their homework I’m exhausted, besides, my favorite show is on and I really need a distraction.
  6. I’d like to find a new job that will be more interesting, but I keep hearing about all the layoffs and I’m afraid to try something new right now.
  7. I hate my current position but due to staff reductions, we’re working overtime and I just can’t find time to look for something else.
Any of these sound like you?  They look different in print, huh?  All of us can find reasons NOT to accomplish our goals, and are able to blame many of those reasons on someone else.  The first thing you need to do is accept responsibility for your situation and then take the necessary steps to change the situation.  In other words, get out of your own way!
Looking for a job, whether you have one or not, requires commitment, discipline and time management.  Keep in mind that the length of your search will depend on the amount of focused, productive time you put into it.  If you are currently working and have limited time to engage in your search it will take longer.  If you are not working, congratulations!  You have plenty of time to commit to your future success.  Yes, the economy sucks right now.  Guess what?  People are still getting jobs; GREAT JOBS!  Don’t you deserve one of them?
First, you have to decide how much time you will invest in your search each week.  You’ll need time for research, online networking, applications, interviews, face-to-face networking and follow up.  Not all of these activities will be necessary each week so a weekly (and daily) plan needs to be established.  Here are some ideas that will help you make the most of this time:
  1. Establish a quiet place in your home that is your office.  This needs to be a place where no one can interrupt you, preferably with a door that will separate you from the rest of your world so you can concentrate, focus, and talk on the phone without external noises.
  2. Publish weekly office hours.  Make sure that your family sees these hours and respects your time.  If you are on the clock, NO interruptions – unless someone is bleeding or dead.
  3. Set daily goals for yourself (make 3 new calls, find 5 new companies, connect with 2 former colleagues) so that you can celebrate each day’s productivity.  During your search, no one is monitoring your work; you have to be your own boss so set expectations clearly and make them happen!
  4. Answer your phone professionally, and if there is noise in the background, let it go to voice mail so you can return the call from your office.
  5. Activity breeds activity.  Connections made with former coworkers will result in new connections with people you don’t know today, and may result in a job tomorrow.  Make as many authentic connections as you can, be prepared to help and ask for their help.
  6. Schedule your activities in harmony with your body clock.  If you are a morning person, do your personal follow up, interviews and brain work in the morning.  Save mundane tasks; research, applications, email responses, for the low energy part of your day.
  7. Repetition increases productivity.  Try and combine like activities into a single time period in order to get more done. If you need to follow up on resumes you’ve sent, take a one hour block of time and do them all at once.  If you have an outside day, schedule a breakfast meeting, coffee, lunch, interview and happy hour all in the same day – you’re dressed, prepped, in the proper mindset – make the most of it!
  8. Make sure you have the right tools to do your job (looking for a job).  Email (with a professional signature just for your job search), contact manager, document processor, PDF creator, online or paper calendar (with you at all times), a mobile phone than only you answer, Linked In, online business news subscriptions, and a database or spreadsheet to track your activity.
Not one of these suggestions alone will get you a job tomorrow.  Combining your energy, productivity, discipline and personal accountability will collectively contribute to your ultimate success.  By removing your BUTS and self-imposed obstacles, you’ll have the capacity to visualize your next amazing career opportunity.  For more ideas on career development and getting hired please visit us at http://www.goldstonepartners.com

Give ’em a break!

August 3, 2009

Remember your manners during a job search

I’ve been recruiting for 3 economic cycles now (over 15 years) and I’ve noticed some distinct differences in this particular downturn. There are a bunch of folks who, for the first time in their career, have found themselves unemployed or fearful of becoming unemployed. I’ve also noticed that some of these folks are not practicing good manners in their quest for a new position.

Let’s set the stage a bit. There are companies hiring, there are jobs out there, and there are terrific opportunities for career development. The companies who are hiring are also experiencing a tremendous flow of candidates. The HR departments are understaffed and overworked. They not only screen applicants; they also take care of payroll, benefits, 401k administration, year end performance assessments, bonus calculations, employee on-boarding, training/development, payroll – you get the idea. The hiring managers with open positions are trying to hire while already tackling their full time roles. This is a catch 22 for them; they are busy and need to hire additional team members, but because they have open positions they are having a hard time finding space in their calendars to do an effective job of interviewing.

On the other side of the fence are job seekers. Sadly, our society doesn’t spend any time teaching people how to find a job. As a result, when you find yourself in the position to change employers (voluntarily or involuntarily) this causes stress. When stressed you may slide into unattractive behaviors, which compounds the lack of success in your search.

This is where I start with some sound motherly advice. Don’t forget your manners. Common courtesies such as please, thank you, follow up calls, acknowledgements, graceful exits, referrals, straightforward responses and open, honest communication may very well mean the difference between you and another candidate.

It is absolutely critical to be courteous to everyone you meet during the interview process. This means the front desk, security personnel, HR, future peers, passersby; everyone.

Write email thank you notes to everyone who takes time to meet you. Don’[t forget to get their cards or at least name spelling during the interview. Email thank yous are appropriate, especially during a job search. Time is critical, don’t wait for the US Mail to deliver your follow up.

Address direct questions with direct answers. It’s frustrating for the interviewer to listen to a candidate who goes off on a tangent or dances around the answer to a question. You won’t get a job using this approach.

Ask about follow up protocol. If the hiring manager says that she will make a decision in a week then ask if you can call back in a week. If the HR manager says you can follow up in 3 days, then make a note and make sure you keep the commitment.

If the position is not interesting to you bow out gracefully. Thank them for their consideration; let them know that you appreciate their offer and that you will refer friends and associates to them as appropriate.

Looking for a job is stressful and it’s easy to blame others for the situation. Stay focused on keeping a positive mental attitude, a likeable persona and on making it easy for your future employer to see you as a member of their team.

As a Talent Acquisition Consultant I spend a great deal of time talking with people about their careers and companies about their hiring practices. Every month I review hundreds of resumes, professional biographies, vitas and everything in between. I also am asked regularly what a ‘good’ resume looks like and how to get noticed by potential employers.

The books, blogs, websites and professional writers all have opinions on what works (and doesn’t work) to help you land that perfect job. I’m not without opinions myself; let’s take a business approach to the task. The objective of a resume is to solicit interest from the reader (employer) in wanting to learn more about the author (applicant). In web terms, you want the reader to ‘click’ on your resume, spent time there and contact you for more information.

Resume writing is a creative talent that eludes a large percentage of the population. Trying to ‘market’ yourself while making sure that the proper acronyms appear for keyword searches of your resume in the databases compounds the difficulty of this exercise. It’s important that the reader of your resume not only understands what your technical qualifications are, but who you are as a person. Your communication skills, personal strengths and how you articulate technical concepts are all important to convey.

For those of you whose creativity comes in the form of network/application/system/process design and not copywriting, we’ll break it down into more manageable tasks. Here are 6.5 things you can do to increase the ‘click’ factor in your resume.

1. Focus the reader on your content by beginning your resume with a Title. This is similar to the title of the chapter of a book; short, simple, and helps to focus the reader on the content. You may have resumes with different titles if your background is applicable to more than one position.

2. Elaborate on the title with a brief summary of your experience. The summary statement will be between 3 and 5 lines that encapsulate you as a professional. This concept replaces the classic objective which tends to be dry and very general; that doesn’t help differentiate you from the rest of the crowd. Think search results headline, or social site summary category when you are crafting your summary.

3. Front and center – the WOW factor. Support your summary with bullet points that illustrate your most outstanding accomplishments. These might be great projects, awards, recognitions or other times in your professional career that you are proud of. Make these statements short and quantify the results if possible. These are the ‘headlines’ that grab the reader’s interest and get them to keep reading.

4. Let your personality shine. Resumes need to not only communicate your technical qualifications, but also demonstrate that you know how to talk in plain English. Keep the content professional, but explain yourself in words that provide some insight to you as a person. Your ability to connect with the reader will help your chances of getting to the next stage.

5. No more than 2 pages. The objective of your resume is to get you an interview. Resumes should never be more than 2 pages since most hiring managers spend about 15 seconds to scan it and decide if they want to meet you. Additionally, this will help you focus on the important information that you need to convey and leave elaboration for a personal discussion. The experience section might be chronological or functional depending on your personal situation. Education should appear after your work experience unless you’re a recent graduate. Again, you are trying to increase the ‘click’ factor, not write your memoirs. In Amazon terms, you want the reader to BUY.

6. A new section; keywords. Most of the companies you apply to will place your resume into an applicant tracking database. A keyword section will include all the words that you want your resume to surface in a keyword search. There is no need to repeat words that are in the body of your resume, but include additional terms that might be relevant but not included in your resume. For instance, if you list your degree as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, you might use BSEE in your keyword section.

6.5 Finally, make it easy to contact you. Voice mail messages (on all phones) should be professional and brief. Email addresses should be simple and professional (don’t use your shredder@hotmail.com account for your job search). Include an address, it’s still important to show that you are a real person. Keep paragraphs short for readability. Use bullets to break up the commentary; most people can sight read 3 lines. Unless a specific format is requested, send your resume in a PDF format – try cutepdfwriter (cutepdfwriter.com) for an easy, free conversion application.

Your resume is a living document. Keep it updated, tweak it occasionally and proofread it exhaustively. You’ll also want to keep your social sites updated. You should expect that any potential employer will check you out on the web – probably before they meet you – so keep your online profile clean and consistent.