Posts Tagged ‘advice’

Job Market Tips

April 12, 2009

As the unemployment rate rises, employers continue to cut jobs making the competition for every open position is fierce. To land a job in this environment requires near perfect execution during the job search process. While many factors outside of your control will impact your ability to get hired, you must be certain that you control everything in your power.
A job search is perfectly designed to produce what it is producing. In other words, if you are having trouble in getting hired you must look in the mirror to see what you can do better. Here are some things that can help you improve your odds.
If you are not getting interviews, improve your resume. Recruiters, human resources and hiring managers receive too many resumes to view each one thoroughly. You must ensure that yours stands out. Make your resume easy to read by including a bulleted accomplishment section at the top and by bulleting, bolding and italicizing judiciously throughout the resume’s body. Ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Content should be process and result oriented and not a job description. Finally, customize your resume by reading specific job postings and reordering and adjusting your content to create similarities between your resume and the job description.
Finding a job in this market is a full time exercise. You must visit job boards and company sites every day. Many qualified candidates are applying for each position, allowing jobs to be filled quickly. For example, two weeks ago I posted an ad for a receptionist and in just 2 hours I received over 300 resumes. With my inbox overwhelmed, I took the ad down and hired someone from that group. Therefore, it is critical to be one of the first candidates. You must reach out to your network regularly and use sites like Linked In and Facebook to identify contacts in target firms.
Show proof of your ability by tracking your results and displaying them clearly. Bring reports, documents, performance appraisals – anything that shows you are as good as you say. The mere fact you bring evidence of your successes may sway the interviewer.
Do not speak poorly about others on an interview. I learned this lesson the hard way. I hired someone who spoke poorly about her previous manager and for two years I was reminded that the employee, and not her previous manager, was the problem. What someone says about others says often says more about who they are than anything else.
The perfect job may not be out there today. Give yourself permission to take a job for less pay or at a lower level than your target position. Currently, it is more important to be working than to have the perfect job. Put yourself in a position to weather the economic downturn.
Be truthful about how long you are looking. Everyone recognizes the difficult market and therefore it is ok to say you have looked for a job for a while and have not found one. Be truthful and say “I was laid off 6 months ago and I have been looking ever since.” The truth is better than saying you decided to take time off or wanted to travel – all of which make it look like you do not really possess a sense of urgency about landing a job.
Keep track of the positions you apply for with a spreadsheet or a notepad so you will be able to quickly reference who is calling you. A company wants to believe that their position is special to you. I rarely interview a candidate who says “I am applying for a lot of jobs. What type of job is it anyway?”
Apply for only one job within a company. I often receive multiple resumes from one candidate for different jobs. Be targeted. That sends the message is that you will take any job offered. Even if it is true, have the wisdom and self-respect not to express it.
Show up on time. I had a candidate show up late for an interview. He claimed the subway had a problem. I was very impressed with him so I scheduled a second appointment to make sure he showed up on time and if he did he had the job. Once again he was late, and I lost all confidence in his reliability.
These tips will help you stand out from the crowd!

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It Is Critical To Remain Positive

March 8, 2009

The stimulus and bailout debate is centered on how bad the economy is and how inaction will lead to catastrophe.  The language of fear, negativity and pessimism has exacerbated the economic malaise and is killing our economy.  It may also adversely affect your career or company. 

 

Our self-fulfilling economic nightmare may occur, with or without the recently passed stimulus/bailout package, precisely because we are being scared into inaction like the proverbial deer in the headlights. 

 

People change or act for 2 reasons: greed or fear.  The internet stock and housing bubbles indicate that greed is a strong motivator.  The widespread fear engendered by the current debate caused a drop in consumer spending and associated rise in savings, harbingering a new era of frugality.  As a nation we are at a critical inflection point with 2 potential paths. We can let fear reign and quickly lose our global leadership position or we can exude confidence and create a sustained recovery.  The language of the discourse will largely dictate our future. 

 

So too it is with your company and career.   My firm downsized about 5 percent of its workforce or about 50 people. I delivered that difficult message.  To ensure poor morale and fear would not engulf the organization we were extremely proactive in our communications.  Our positive, future focused efforts and statements placed us ahead of the negativity curve and our employees rallied.  The results are extremely encouraging and the company, a real estate and financial services firm, is having a great first quarter. 

 

In sharp contrast, a colleague related that when his company failed to give raises and bonuses employee morale went into a tailspin. By every measure, employee and company productivity dropped and the firm, with about 75 employees, is now struggling for survival. The inability of the employees to properly frame the current economic malaise may cause their demise.

While it is not always easy to stay positive in difficult times here are some tips.

 

First, find a silver lining.  A recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose yours.  Most of us are merely in a recession and can still pay our bills.  While we strive for more it is comforting to still control your future and your life. 

Second, stay focused on the present and work harder than before.  The further out we place our gaze the less clear it is and these uncertain times make it difficult to look too far in the future.   Control what you can today.  In addition, the harder you work the less time you have to perseverate on negativity.  Your efforts may get recognized and help your organization perform well in tough times.  

Third, be a cheerleader.  Negativity is contagious.  Negative conversations and topics are emotionally draining and self-defeating so avoid them.  Be exceedingly optimistic and you will feel better and become a leader.  No one knows how or when the recession will end, so you might as well smile your way to its conclusion. 

Fourth, keep perspective.  All American generations experience significant hardships.  The Great Depression and World War II are examples of the difficulties we faced as a nation.  The generation forged in the crucible of these challenges is famously referred to as the Greatest Generation.  Adversity allows us to appreciate what is really important – family, friends and simple pleasures.  Rabid consumerism is probably not at the top of our lists. 

 

Finally, be realistic.  Maintain a positive outlook without being a Pollyanna.  For example, at an old firm I was unhappy and needed to take my skills, abilities and career elsewhere.  Though miserable, I faked a positive attitude and eventually found a better fit.  Keep your resume updated and your eyes and ears open.  It is a difficult job market, but there are opportunities.  Be patient and you will eventually find them. 

 

To quote founding father Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”  They are also the times that allow us to find greatness in ourselves.

Project Strength Instead of Weakness During An Interview

January 11, 2009

Recently, I was interviewing a strong candidate who lost his position when his company went under. The candidate had a solid educational pedigree and work experience. He was bright and articulate and was just about 5 minutes away from receiving an offer. Then the following exchange occurred.
As the interviewer I said: “Tell me what areas each of your last 2 managers would say you can improve on.”
Candidate: “2 jobs ago my manager said that I was not completely engaged because the job was not what I was looking for, and at my last job my manager would probably say that the role was not the right fit for me and because of it I was bored at times. That said, I am passionate about this job and think it is going to be the right fit for me.”
I interpreted the candidate as effectively telling me that his past managers were unhappy with his effort, focus and commitment and that unless he found the perfect fit he would not give his best and total effort to a position. The candidate was professional, impressive and close to an offer, but I could not take the risk that he would be unhappy.
In this hypercompetitive, buyer’s job market you must not offer interviewers reasons not to hire you and that is exactly what the candidate did. Instead of offering to go above and beyond, he presented himself as unpredictable. No matter how nuanced, exhibiting or intimating a bad attitude, laziness, lack of commitment, focus or teamwork can kill your opportunity.
Employers know that past performance is predictive of future performance and will ask interview questions to find out about past behavior. But how can you show positive past behaviors that predict the future successes while addressing a negative or offering examples of weaknesses?
There is a simple 3 step process that will allow you to construct negatives into positives. The 3 steps are:
1. identify a non-core area for improvement
2. position it so it can be seen as a positive
3. show how you are working on improving the area.
First, only identify weaknesses that will not devalue you as a candidate. So identify the 4 or 5 core roles for the position you are interviewing for and be sure to not address any of them in the weaknesses area. For example, if you are interviewing for an engineering management position that uses specific software you should not identify basic engineering, the software or management skills as areas for improvement. In addition, you should not show weaknesses in the area of work ethic, learning, commitment and getting along with others. These are core traits that are necessary in all jobs.
In the example from above, the candidate stated his last 2 managers did not think he worked “that hard.” Some people put in a minimal effort while others work hard, but in this economy no one needs to take a risk on a “lazy” or “unmotivated” candidate.
Second, look for an area that is a negative, but can be perceived as a positive. For example, you can say “I try to take on too much work” or “I try to balance multiple projects” and have missed some deadlines because of it. This statement can position you as a hard worker. Since managers can help employees manage workflow or time, but cannot put the fire in an employee’s belly this subtle approach can have a powerful impact. Either of these answers can present you as a candidate who will work hard and who can flourish with a little guidance.
The third and final step is addressing the weakness. For example, “because I recognize the importance of meeting deadlines I have begun to manage my projects on a timeline so that I do not bite off more than I can chew and can meet my deadlines. But this is an ongoing process for me.” All of us can improve in different areas but here is a candidate actually endeavoring to do it!
These’s tips will help you turn your weaknesses into positives and help you land your next job!

The Evolutionary Necessity of Adaptation

May 30, 2008

I started running last year and have become more and more obsessed by it.  I run as often as I can and as far as time allows me.  I run through injuries and this causes more injuries.  Sanity has suggested that I regulate my runs more effectively; I don’t listen. 

Curious about my new obsession I began to research why people run in the hopes of better understanding myself.  What I learned was instructive.  The earliest ancestors of humans evolved as distance runners.  Endurance running aided their survival by allowing them to hunt and gather at a level that allowed sustenance in bad environments.  In better times, it allowed humans to flourish and develop civilization.

Darwin’s survival of the fittest took over and the best runners and best thinkers survived.  Humans are very different than other animals.  We are a lot slower than just about any other predator.  For example, the fastest human, can run about 18 miles an hour.  The grizzly bear, leopard and lion can run about twice as fast.  Human movement indicates we evolved to cover long distances and not to run from predators.  We are not built to run away from enemies, but to outsmart them. 

By the same token we are built to wear out animals during the hunt.  On the plains of the Serengeti our ability to run and our evaporative sweat system let us wear out animals like the antelope who will overheat after a long run.  We evolved not to be faster, but to be smarter and better able to adapt to our eco-system than other creatures.      

Humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gathers, traveling on foot, often up to 15 miles a day.  Civilization came recently, only about 10,000 years ago, a mere blink of the evolutionary eye.  About 150 years ago the industrial revolution changed our landscape further by bringing us factory work.  We have further transitioned into a service economy, one full of office workers.  These changes in work-life have been too recent to have any impact on who we are as a species.

OK Mark.  So why is all of this important?  I have come to believe that knowing our group or individual predispositions enhances our ability to sustain or improveg our performance over a longer period of time.   

Today’s economy is fast paced, challenging and ever changing.  Like our running ancestors we are wired for the chase.  The human mind is remarkable.  It is capable of remarkable focus and even more remarkable feats.  How else can we explain how a physically weak and slow creature came to dominate the world?  

The human brain enables us to focus on the long term while maintaining the passion of the hunt.  We can strategize.  We can work individually and in groups.  We can adapt our style to new and changing environments.  The economy is very different today than it was over the last several years and yet many people are still performing at high levels.  The landscape has changed, but so can we. 

In fact, humans have physically evolved to adapt quickly to changing environments and have traveled to safer and more fertile environments throughout history.  We do the same thing today.  Your career must also seek fertile environments.   As one market cools down you can transition into a new one.

In this strange new job market what do you need to do to succeed? 

·         Do you need to find new or different industry?

·         Do you need additional training or education?

 

Now is the time to plan.

As the market evolves my ability and strategy as Director of Human Resources to find, recruit, develop, retain and motivate talent has changed.  There are so many people that avoid change that it is easy to stay ahead of the curve.  Now is your chance as well.

In the not so distant past our aboriginal ancestors would awake.  So would an antelope.  The very survival of each was predicated on success in the chase.  The winner survived; the loser perished.  Humans won the race against other species.  Now we compete among ourselves.  Nevertheless, it is still survival of the fittest.      

This morning, about 6:30, I was running alone alongside a river in the remnants of an arboreal forest.   It had rained heavily for the last several days and I turned my ipod off as my running was goaded by the sounds of the river.  My vision was drawn to an aberration.  I saw a large grey bird flying past me over the river.  I estimated the bird’s wingspan at 6 feet.  Just when I thought the bird a mirage it reappeared.  It was a Blue Herron.  At that moment I learned why I run.  It is the only choice I can make.