Archive for September, 2012

My mentor and good friend John Hall likes to share that In the January 3rd 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine, Geoff Colvin talks about how Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for oral arguments he would meticulously write down hundreds of questions that he thought he could conceivably be asked, pondered and refined the answers in his mind, then he wrote the questions and answers on flash cards. He would then shuffle the questions and practice, practice, practice. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died on September 3rd 2005, George W. Bush nominated Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice. For what might be considered the ultimate job interview, Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for the confirmation hearing the same way. For anyone who was able to watch portions of the confirmation, his answers were quick, concise, and delivered in an easy manner.

You might think, “I know myself. I know my career. I know my industry. Of course I can answer interview questions.” The fact is, more times than not, candidates hurt themselves in the interview. Interviews can be so hard to come by, yet we often wing them, rambling on and talking our way out of the job. Preparation and repetition is the key to setting yourself apart from others in the interview process. Like I said in What Do Free Throws Have To Do With Interviews, you cannot afford to shoot an air ball when the game is on the line.

Finally, video tape mock interviews are a great way to see how you appear to interviewers. So many people are shocked by what they see in the video replay. The good news is I have seen many people make the necessary changes, and successfully land their next position. Practice and eliminate bad habits. For those of you who live in Southern California, Above The Rim Executive Coaching offers Mock Interviews once a month. Check the schedule and register online.

Can You afford an air ball when the game is on the line?

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Over the past several years, the news has been filled with huge layoffs by companies trying to cut costs. Is this a strategy that really helps a company? Every day, in the course of networking, I have the opportunity to talk with, not only people who are in transition because of cost cutting efforts, but also I have opportunity to talk with people “left behind” after the cost cutting. The story is so often the same. Significant resources of knowledge and skills have left the company, leaving those left behind swimming against a rip current. The more they struggle to make up for lost resources, the further fall behind on objectives. They are asked to do more and more, all with decreasing efficiencies and effectiveness. Managers are looking to leave the company because they no longer have the assets in place to meet the demands for the company to succeed.

In a corporate environment, every person in the company, through the tasks and projects they work on, needs to contribute in a way that they are helping the company do one of three things:

  1. Help the company generate revenue
  2. Help the company reduce costs
  3. Help the company mitigate risks

If an employee is not doing this to a degree greater than their annual cost, it really doesn’t make sense for the company to be paying them. The company should not wait for a crisis to let go of underperforming employees. Typically, companies expect to cost savings or revenue generation 3 to 5 times the cost of the employee. If the employee is achieving this success, it NEVER makes sense to cut the employee to save costs.

Does your company understand the true value brought by your employees? Is your company costing itself more by trying to reduce employee costs?

 

This is a blog I posted last year, during Linasity, but was accidently deleted. The ideas about perceived liabilities are still relevant, so I am re-posting.

Perceived liabilities are what we or others perceive will keep us from being the best person for the job. The problem is that these perceptions are often based on stereotypes and prejudices that are not reflective of our actual talent. Along these lines Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American basketball player on meteoric rise in the NBA, who has not let perceived liabilities prevent him from leveraging his skills to have the success he was meant to have. Throughout his career, despite demonstrating significant success at each and every step, decision makers and “experts” had their blinders on.

  1. Despite leading his high school team to the California state championship over the vaunted Mater Dei Monarchs, he was not deemed to “have the right material for the next level” and did not receive a single basketball scholarship offer from a Division One program. Scouts said his game is good, but doesn’t have the skill, speed or strength to compete at the division one level.
  2. Went to Harvard – Not a university known for producing NBA players. Despite performances in college, even against basketball such as Georgetown, that demonstrated Jeremy is a good, fundamentally solid basketball player, he didn’t fit the stereotype for the prototype NBA guard.
  3. He was told he does not have an NBA body – is this a sub-conscience labeling because of Jeremy’s Asian-American heritage?
  4. Jeremy was not drafted, so teams were reluctant to give him a real opportunity, despite excelling against top draft picks in the summer leagues.
  5. Rookie year signed with the Golden State Warriors, and despite great performance in summer league and practice was not giving chance to play during the season.
  6. Cut by the Warriors and Houston Rockets, Jeremy was finally signed by the New York Knicks. After a stint in the developmental league where he again excelled, he was called up to the Knicks, where he sat on the bench until injuries forced his coach to give him a chance.
  7. Since then Jeremy has taken a team that had lost 8 of 11 games before he started playing to winning the first 7 games.
  8. Scouting reports said he can’t shoot. Really?? Since being given the chance to start for the New York Knicks, Jeremy has scored 20 or more points in his first seven games including a 38 point performance in leading the Knicks over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

What is holding you back from your next opportunity to shine? Age? Industry Experience? Are the liabilities real or perceived? How can you take charge of your career, and manage your brand and reputation to change or erase the stereotype that may be impacting your search.

 

Last week I discussed the best way to get around the salary question for online applications is to stop relying on online applications and pursue the hidden job market. This makes sense not only to get around the salary question, and the general road block of HR, but also because 80% of the truly open jobs are in the hidden job market. Before we go any further, what is the hidden job market? It is not that the jobs are buried somewhere hidden. It is any opportunity that is not currently posted on the job boards. This can consist of jobs that are in the still in the internal candidate search process, jobs that are in the process of being defined, or opportunities to solve problems that have yet to be identified in a job description. Your success in this depends on a purposeful strategy with a clearly defined goal of where you want to go. In the words of Yogi Berra:

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Start off creating a list of Target Companies based, not on jobs posted, but on your passions and interests. While not all companies have job openings, all companies have problems. In order to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, you need to position yourself as a solution, not a job seeker. In order to position yourself as a solution you need to know the problems and headaches of your target companies. In order to understand the problems, you need to research your target companies. Finally in order to research your target companies, you need to have target companies.

Once you have your list of target companies, begin your research, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can find a few resources here.

From here you are in a position to produce industry wide special reports which are great keys to get you in the door for information meetings. Use these as a launch-pad for a social media campaign to establish your reputation as a thought leader and subject matter expert in your particular niche. Simultaneously, you need to network network network. This doesn’t mean just attend a ton of networking event collecting business cards to put on your desk. Strategically and purposefully engage in professional organizations taking positions on committees and boards, so that you can work on a professional level with influential people in your target industry. For your success in the hidden job market, it is not necessarily what you know, or even what you know, but who knows you, and what their perception is of you that will maximize your career opportunities.

How are you strategically researching your target companies and spreading your reputation as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your particular niche?