Posts Tagged ‘Employment’

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

In my most recent blog, I discussed 10 practices that will optimize your job security. Today, I want to elaborate on the first practice; Ask questions and be an active listener. Are you asking the right questions on the job? The biggest challenge I see for people who are looking for a new job is that they cannot identify the value of what they have been doing in their career. A vast majority of professionals view their job in terms of the process or tasks they do on a regular basis. The problem is that this just reinforces the fact that you are a commodity in the eyes of the employer. What you have to keep in mind is that in order for you earn a salary, you need to:

  1. Help the company generate more revenue than the cost of employing you
  2. Help the company save more costs than the cost of employing you
  3. Help the company mitigate more risks than the cost of employing you

If you do this, there should NEVER be a reason for your position to be eliminated in a cost reducing restructuring. Unfortunately most people when asked to identify and quantify their accomplishments, they just say that they do not have that information. If you are an IT manager, and you develop and implement a system for the company, what are the results of your work, and what is the return on the company’s investment? Just because you have done a project or task, does that mean you have done it successfully? How do you then define the success? In order to really understand this you need to ask questions about the purpose of the task, process or project you are working on.

In our career, we need to be extremely proactive in asking questions. These questions can include some of the following:

  1. What is the purpose of what I am doing?
  2. How does it fit into the achievement of the company mission?
  3. How does it impact the performance of others?
  4. What are the measurable metrics before you start?
  5. What are the measurable metrics after you finish?
  6. What is the cost of your project, task or process?

You should be talking not only to your supervisor, but talk to the stake holders in the project or tasks you are working on. Make sure you understand the objective and what they are looking to achieve from your work. Understand how it will impact their job. Talk to team members in other departments, and learn how your work impacts them? By taking these steps, not only will you better understand the value you deliver, but people you work with will also understand the value you bring.

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.

For most of the past three years, I have had the great opportunity to work with John Hall in teaching his Advanced Career Strategies and Advanced Career Transition classes. One of the tools taught in the class and that I have adopted for my private practice is the use of case studies as a marketing tool to help professionals land their next career position. It is an idea that really makes sense. Every company that I have ever been with, either had, or I created one page case studies demonstrating the value that the product or service has brought to other customers.

As professionals, we have numerous accomplishments throughout our careers. Many professionals who are in career transition are familiar with the concept through the use of various acronyms such as PARs (Problem, Action & Result). A case study is a one page expansion and Illustration of the PAR and how you can impact an organization. You might be thinking “I have never seen anyone else create or use a case study, why should I”?

  1. If nobody else is doing it, that is exactly why you should be doing it. You need to differentiate yourself from all the other job seekers. Getting a job may be the most important thing you do, so why wouldn’t you go above and beyond, to demonstrate you are the best person to achieve the objectives of the position.
  2. Most professionals tend to ramble, and give irrelevant or even damaging information when answering questions in interviews. By taking the time to create a case study, you cement the information in your brain, in a concise and simple manner that allows you to answer interview questions in a succinct manner, focusing on the benefit to the interviewer and employer.
  3. Case Studies are great content for portfolios. Many people think that portfolios are only for marketing people or graphic designers. Putting together a portfolio of your accomplishments including case studies sets you apart from the competition
  4. Everyone learns differently, and the more sense you can facilitate the interviewer using, the greater chance you have to positively stand out in their memory and selection process. Having a well designed and laid out case studies including diagrams and graphs, allows the interviewer to absorb information visually as well as through auditory input.

If you live in the Orange County area, and are interested in learning how to create compelling case studies join our workshop on Tuesday October 16th.

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?

 

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?

 

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.