Posts Tagged ‘Greg Johnson’


The other day, while conducting a mock interview workshop, I asked the interviewee what compensation he was looking for. He proceeded to say that he needed at least six figures because he has two kids in college and alimony payments in addition to his mortgage payments. Now you might think that this is a reasonable approach, to determine what your obligations are and therefore what you need to earn.

However, your obligations have no relevancy to the company or to the value you bring to an organization. The reality is that whatever projects, processes and tasks you do for a company need to contribute to either the growth of revenue, the reduction of costs or the mitigation of risk. If your work is not helping the company in any of these areas, it is hard for a company to justify paying your salary. Therefore it is essential for you to understand how your work in impacting your organization.

In an earlier blog I wrote about 10 Tips to Optimize Your Career Security. This is the fourth instalment, Tracking Your Success. If you have followed the first tip and ask the right questions, you will understand how your projects and tasks fit into the needs and goals of your company. Once you understand this, establish Key Performance Indexes (KPI’s) relevant for your tasks and projects to measure your growth and performance. These can be in the area of time saved, improved efficiencies, improved productivity, and improved quality. You can then measure your performance against when you took over a position, or show year to year improvement.

Renowned management thought leader Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What this means that you can’t know whether or not you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.  With a clearly established metric for success, you can quantify progress and adjust your process to produce the desired outcome.  Without clear objectives, you’re stuck in a constant state of going through the motions

Not only do these measurements help your organization to understand your success, but it also helps you to understand your value. When you are able to articulate your success through quantified accomplishments, you demonstrate that you are aware of how your role impacts an organization, and that you are not just going through the motions, but striving for the success of the company you work for. You are no longer a commodity for the company, but a solution for their problems and a resource for their opportunities.

This blog is written by Greg Johnson of Above The Rim Executive Coaching

Gold Bars Image courtesy of ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

 

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?

 

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.

 

As a follow-up to my blog last week, I am continuing with the twitter theme. After the idea of filtering out the noise, the most often question I get asked is what am I going to tweet about?? Who would be interested in what I have to say?

Anyone professional that is serious in keeping up to date on current trends and practices in their profession, should, at the very least, read professional periodicals. This is a great source for tweeting for the following reasons:

  1. You should already be reading this type of article, so the amount of “extra” time needed to tweet will be minimal.
  2. It demonstrates the type of information you read to keep on top of your profession.
  3. It gives credit or props to the source.
  4. Commenting on it helps establish your thoughts on the topic.

This is all very easy to do by using a third party app such as Hootet by Hootsuite, or bufferapp. These applications allow you to, with the click of an icon, to open up a new dialogue box with the title of the article, and a shortened link for the URL. All you need to do is add your personal touch, and tweet it out. You can even schedule to send them out at peak times.

A common theme of my blogs as well as workshops is that companies, for the most part view employees and prospective employees as liabilities instead of assets, or commodities instead of equity that bring additional value to the company. The other day I was talking with a client about the many types of experiences and skills that she possesses. It hit me that these were like the many facets of a valuable diamond, and each contribute to the value of her diamond. So rather than being viewed as coal that just gets burned up and consumed by a company, demonstrate your value and make yourself the diamond that brings equity to the company. What are you doing to know, understand and be able to articulate your many aspects that create significant value for your employer or prospective employer? Target companies that can leverage your facets to solve their most pressing issues and gain advantage over the competition. Remember, you are the diamond bringing value, not coal to be burned and consumed by the company.