Posts Tagged ‘Career Search’

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on 10 steps to optimize your career security. This is the second installment in elaborating on the 10 steps. It may seem like a no brainer that, in order to increase your career security, you really need to master your role. Unfortunately, the culture in most of corporate America fosters an attitude of doing things the easy and convenient way rather than doing the best way. In most cases, if a person performs at 70% or 80%, their compensation will be no different than if they perform at 100%. Furthermore, people feel they don’t have the time to really take the steps to fully master their role. People get into a pattern of punching the clock, trudging through the daily grind, with the goal of getting through the day. We end up just going through the motions.

The problem is two-fold. First is that productivity for the company really suffers. Secondly, and from a personal career perspective, more importantly, this type of work philosophy validates the company’s view that employees are nothing more than commodities, and when it is time to cut costs, the employee gets the boot.

In order to truly master your role, you need to understand what part it plays in helping the organization achieve its mission and goals. If you have taken the time to ask questions as discussed in the first installment, you will have a greater understanding of how you are contributing to the bottom line of the company.

Additionally,industries and technologies are constantly changing. Are you staying on top of the advances? You need to be constantly seeking ways to increase your knowledge. Ways meet this demand will be addressed in a future blog.

Finally you need to be constantly looking for ways to improve performance and quality. Too often employees are not motivated to make these improvements because it takes too much work, and it is easier to just go with the status quo. Again this is where complacency sets in, and also furthers the employer’s view that you are just a commodity.

* Three Business Men by Kosta Kostov

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One of the biggest concerns of people have today is job security. While it is the new normal that job security doesn’t exist, the good news is we can significantly improve our career security. Too many professionals let their career happen to them. They put their nose to the grindstone and assume their work will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Unless you strategically and purposefully take action, your work is taken for granted, and when the powers that be decide they need to reduce costs, you are restructured out of a position.

It is extremely important to understand that the key to your next promotion or your next job opportunity is not the skill and experience you have (although this is important), nor who you know, but who knows you and what is their perception of your professional capabilities and subject matter expertise. Most people go through their career with only a very small handful of people that have an idea of their value and subject matter expertise. So how can you build and spread your reputation?

    1. Understand the purpose of your tasks and projects.
    2. Understand how your role impacts the success of the company and others in the company.
    3. Understand how other’s roles impact your success.
  1. Master your role.
  2. Track results of projects and tasks.
  3. Communicate.
  4. Look what you can do outside and above your job description.
  5. Take on board or committee positions in professional associations.
  6. Network both inside and outside the company.
  7. Continuously improve skills, knowledge and certification.
  8. Mentoring.
  9. Succession Planning.

I will be writing on each of these over the next while and would love to have your feedback on your thoughts of how these and others impact your career management.

Blog by Greg Johnson | Above The Rim Executive Coaching

Almost every job interview begins with the interviewer asking the interviewees to tell about themselves. This seemingly innocent and obvious question sinks more interviews than any other part of the interview. Everyone knows this question is coming, however, very few candidates prepare for this. They assume that they know their background, and so they can just talk about it. However 90% of candidates talk themselves right out of a job just in telling about themselves. Because they have not prepared they:

  1. Ramble
  2. Bore the Interviewer
  3. Say irrelevant or even damaging things
  4. Do not demonstrate relevancy to the company or the position
  5. Do not demonstrate track record of success

Nailing this part of the interview makes the rest of the interview so much easier. If you strike out on this, recovering is almost impossible. Since you know they are going to ask the question, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare? I have heard recommendations to respond by asking the interviewer to first explain what the job entails. If I am interviewing, and a candidate asks this question, I will wonder why they did not read the job description, and assume they are unprepared. So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind, when interviewing, your primary objectives are to:

  1. Answer “What is in it for the interviewer”?
  2. Demonstrate how your values and culture align with the company values and culture.
  3. Articulate what you are known for, and how that is a benefit for the company.
  4. Articulate your value proposition.

Also you need to be concise and to the point. In preparing for the “Tell Me About Yourself” the following tips will help you nail the shot when the game is on the line.

  1. Read and understand the job description.
  2. Research the company.
  3. Total time should be between 1½ and 3 minutes.
  4. Give a BRIEF synopsis of your career. Shape your synopsis to the needs learned from the job description and prior research.
    1. Do not list every title and company you have worked for, but give a range.
    2. Do not give a laundry list of responsibilities tasks or processes you performed, but give a range.
  5. Based on the job description, as well as the required skills and experiences, give 2 or 3 SHORT accomplishment statements to demonstrate your success.
    1. Do not go into details.
    2. Do not take time to “set the stage”.
    3. Give a simple Quantified Result and action statement including key skill or experience.
    4. Should be 20 words or less.
  6. Summarize skills and experience inferred from the accomplishment statements focusing on skills and experiences required in the job description.
  7. Say why you want the job! Why are you interested in the company, and their products or services?
  8. Solicit their agreement that your background and experience enable you to meet the objectives of the position and the company.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the interview “Tell Me About Yourself” and how you prepare.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful Career Management tools business professionals can tap into to maximize the achievement of their objectives. LinkedIn has recently rolled out a new feature that is a great way to facilitate this and to enhance your online brand. Like all Social media, LinkedIn requires two key philosophies. First is Pay-It-Forward, and the second is “Think It Through”. A little bit of thought, and the desire to pay it forward will take you a long way. Keeping this in mind will help you use the brand new Skills & Endorsements tool to take your LinkedIn engagement to the next level. In order to help you do this, I have developed the following EZ steps.

  1. Add Skills to your profile: Click “More” on the top of the LinkedIn menu than select Skill & Expertise. Add the skills that relate to your profession that you are recognized for and that you use regularly on the job. LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50. Choose as many as apply.
  2. If you already have some skills listed, go to the edit profile mode and click to add more skills
  3. After you add skills, you can click the skill to specify your level of proficiency as well as the number of years you have been utilizing the skill.
  4. Endorse Others: Now pay it forward. Go to the profile of contacts you want to endorse. A box opens up with some suggested skills to endorse. Eliminate skills you are not able to endorse, and add skills you want to endorse. Then click the endorse button
  5. Take an additional couple of minutes to scroll down to their skills section and review their skills. Click all the skills that make sense for you to endorse based on your knowledge of the individual.

Don’t just select the skills suggested by LinkedIn, endorse and move on. Unfortunately, even if you are trying to help the person out, the message that you are giving is that you are not putting thought into what you are doing. This will hurt your reputation, and people will assume if you are “lazy” on LinkedIn, you will be lazy in other parts of your profession. Take some time to do it right, the ROI on the time spent will come back much higher.

This blog is by Greg Johnson

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?

 

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?

 

In my last blog on answering the salary question in the interview, so many people wanted to know how to get around the salary question when filling out an online application. The unfortunate reality is that if you are going fill out online applications, you will need to answer the salary question. The best way to do this successfully is to make sure you research the appropriate salary range for the industry, function and geography. Three resources for researching this are:

However, by doing this, you are still playing by HR’s rules, opening yourself up to disqualification before you ever get in the door, and if you get in, severely limiting any negotiating position you may have. So what are you supposed to do?

Don’t rely on online applications. Stop focusing your job search on the job boards. Focus on the hidden job market! Stop being a Job Seeker, and start being a Solution to the problems of your target companies. Most people who are looking for work, market themselves as job seekers, follow the job boards, and send their applications and resumes into the great black hole. Why? Because those are the “opportunities” that they see. But 80% of actual jobs are in the hidden job market. Going through the hidden job market, you may still need to fill out an online application, but by then, the application is no longer a screening tool, but a formality because they are already interested in you. So how do you access the hidden job market? Next week I will discuss strategies for hunting in the hidden job market.

 

Last week in my blog, I discussed how HR’s question of “What are your salary requirements?” is counterproductive to finding the best employees to achieve the objectives and missions of the position they are trying to fill. Regardless of this fact, there is one thing you can almost guarantee. HR managers interviewing you will try to force the issue so that they can either eliminate you or pin you to a number so you lose any negotiating leverage. So how do you handle this? There are several issues to consider, and prepare for so that you can successfully navigate this area of the interview.

The first issue to resolve is, you need to know what your range is that you are looking for. While it should be irrelevant to the company what you need, you need to know for your own protection what your market value is. There are two components of knowing your market value:

  • Based on the objectives of the position, and based on your past achievements, what are you contributing to the success of the company? The best way to understand this is to look at your accomplishments in your past, and what did these contribute to previous companies in terms of helping the company generate revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risks. Many professionals list these up in accomplishment statements often referred to as an acronym such as PARs – Problem, Action and Results. Identifying and understanding your previous accomplishments will help you understand your value to a company.
  • Research industry and function ranges for positions similar to the ones you are applying for. This will help you in responding to salary questions and also justifying your range you have determined for yourself.

In the interview itself, when HR asks this screening question, your goal is to defer this discussion until after both parties have determined that there is a good fit and they are prepared to offer the position. There are several ways to do this, and the key is to answer in a rational and non confrontational manner, along the lines of:

“There are so many components that go into my decision process of choosing a job, and salary is just one part. Once we determine that I am the best candidate to achieve the objectives of the position, I am extremely confident you will be able to offer a mutually beneficial and market competitive compensation package.”

If they do not accept this, but still press you, you can respond with:

I appreciate that you do not want to waste anyone’s time. What is the range you have budgeted for this position?” If they give you the range, you repeat the highest number and then be quiet.

If they still insist you give them a number, you can say something like:

Based on my current understanding of the position, objectives and expectations, I would expect the salary to be in the range of ______ to _______, which is within industry standards.”

Keep in mind that when interviewing, you are dealing with human beings. The only thing predictable about responses is that they will be unpredictable. While these types of responses are very effective in many cases, they do not always work. In addition, these are responses to salary questions early on in the interview process, and completely separate from negotiations at the time of an offer.

Finally, keep in mind that companies and HR are trying to commoditize employees and candidates. While this may make their job easier, as stated last week, it does not make their job more effective or efficient. The best way to get around this commoditization is to not approach as a job seeker but as a problem, and network your way in through informational meetings.

I am looking forward to getting your feedback.

 

“If I had known the budget range, I never would have applied. If the HR manager had known what I wanted to make, she never would have interviewed me. By the end of the interview process they were comfortable enough with what I can contribute, we were able to negotiate a salary that is good for both of us”. These are the words one client recently hired. It is a story I have heard repeatedly. On the other hand, I have heard so many times on early interviewers insisting a candidate say what their lowest acceptable salary is.

The other day, at a career fair and networking event, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of recruiters. In introducing myself, I mentioned that I am a career coach. They asked if I was one of the people who coached job seekers to evade initial salary questions, and to negotiate salaries at the end. When I said “of course” they both said, that they hate when candidates do that. It makes them angry. I understand that HR doesn’t want to “waist time” with candidates that may be out of their range. However I would say that their focus forces them to “waste time” interviewing and hiring employees that will not bring maximum benefit and ROI to the company. I do not think HR as the time to waste on focusing so much initially on salary. Based on current practices, you end up with approximately 30% of the workforce underperforming and over paid, and 30% underpaid for their contribution. This leads to performing employees looking to leave at the first chance, and underperforming employees staying at the company continuing to drag down efficiencies and effectiveness of the company. The reality is, what a candidate wants or needs to be paid is and should be irrelevant to any company looking to hire people. Every employee needs to perform in a way that they help a company in one of three ways:

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

If the projects and tasks an employee works on don’t achieve one of those three things, there is no reason to pay a salary. Ideally, the employee’s contribution in these areas will be 3 to 5 times the value of their compensation. Therefore the process of the interview should be to:

  1. Find the best person to carry out the responsibilities and objectives of the position,
  2. Determine a mutually beneficial compensation package through past experience, including understanding their past accomplishments and contributions, and objectives of the position determine a mutually beneficial compensation package.

Therefore, I recommend when ask what your salary requirements are, I suggest you say something like “salary is only one component of my decision making process, and now cannot give a number. Once you determine I am the person who can best achieve the objectives of the position and the company, I am confident you can offer a mutually beneficial compensation package”

I look forward to your comments.