Posts Tagged ‘Networking’

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.

Most job seekers take a reactive rather than a proactive approach to their job search. Their focus is on submitting resumes online to jobs that they see posted. This may be the easiest approach, but it is far from effective or efficient. One of the most essential components of a strategic job search plan is to have a target company list. Why is this so important? If you are not aiming to go somewhere, you will not go anywhere. The best way to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, is to position yourself as the solution to the problems of your target companies. You cannot position yourself as a solution, if you do not know their problems, and you cannot know their problems if you do not do adequate research.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the Laguna Niguel Connectors networking meeting, someone said to me that he understood the need to research target companies, but didn’t know where to get information. The best sources for company research are informational meetings and industry conferences or associations. In addition, here is a quick list of great online resources that you can tap into for the information you need.

1)      Call Companies for Information

The power of a simple phone call cannot be over estimated. In today’s era of social media, use of the phone is becoming a lost art. You can use this to find out

2)      Informational Meetings – Talk, either by phone or in person with current or former employees, suppliers, vendors, distributors, competitors and industry experts.

3)      Company Collateral

a)      Company Web sites

b)      Company Brochures

c)       Annual Reports

d)      Newsletters

e)      Archived Webcasts and Earnings Calls

4)      Industry Associations and News

5)      Magazines & Newspapers

6)      Professional Organizations

7)      Additional Internet Resources

a)      Reference USA – free access through many libraries. If you have a library card, go to the library website, check online data bases, and click Reference USA. You will be prompted to enter your library card number.

b)      Mergent Online Company Data Base – same as Reference USA, is accessible through many public libraries

c)       Linkedin

d)      Other Social Media

e)      Google Finance

f)       Google Discussion Group

g)      Blogs

h)      Analyst Reports

What other resources do you recommend for target company research?

One of the most common questions I get about using Twitter as part of a job search strategy is, “How can I get through all the noise?” It is a very good question, with actually a quite simple answer. However, in order to get to the answer, it is very important to understand that to make the greatest use of Twitter, you cannot view it as a standalone branding application. It is best to use a Social Media dashboard such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to manage your social media communication, which will save you an immense amount of time, and let you filter and receive information that is important for you to focus on. The more people or companies you follow, the harder it is to catch the tweets that will be important to you. Every tweet of every person you follow streams on your Twitter home page. Depending on how many you are following, you can have 10’s of thousands of tweets per day. Now, how do you filter the information?

  1. Go to your twitter profile and create “Lists” or categories for people who are important for you to focus on, receive their information and network with. Some of these categories might include industry thought leaders, function thought leaders, mentors, employees of target companies, networking groups, etc. Twitter allows you to create up to 20 lists.
  2. Group your list into 2 ~ 4 broader categories.
  3. Go to the list of people and companies you are following, choose the ones that are most important for you to catch and act on their tweets, and put them in the appropriate list. Keep in mind; you do not need to list all people you follow. Keep it selective. As you follow more people, if they are import.
  4. Open up your account at a Social Media dash-board such as Hootsuite.com. Create a new tab for each broad category, and on each tab open up a stream for each list in that broad category.

Now you will have streams with limited numbers of tweets from the people and companies that are important for you to focus on, and allow you to catch, and act on their relevant tweets. Happy Tweeting!

Throughout my career, I have run into basically two types of professionals. Those who define their career and those who let their career define them. In this economic time, this distinction has become increasingly apparent. Another way to look at it is do you do what you do because you love it, or because you need the money? I run into individuals who thrive on what they do, why they do what they do, and how well they do it. I also run into individuals that are trapped by their titles they have had or processes and tasks they have performed limiting what they think they can do now. The latter group, when introducing themselves at networking events or in interview situations focus on tasks or processes they have done without any clear understanding of how this impacts the organizations they have worked for. The former group, in the same situations, talk with passion about themselves and their profession. They hold your attention, and you see how they can positively impact an organization. No hiring manager wants to hire someone who will feel the job is a means only to a paycheck. They want to hire someone who is passionate about the product or service of the organization, and is passionate about contributing to the success of the organization. Some job seekers would say, given the current economic situation, they cannot afford the luxury to do what they want. They just need a job. I would venture to say, unless you can differentiate yourself with your passions and your success, will have difficulty getting any job just because you need the money. As you are mapping out the rest of your career, whether you are in the beginning of it, the middle or winding down, assess your skills and passions, and develop a strategy so that you will be working because you love what you do, not because of the money you need to earn.

The other day, I had the opportunity to speak to the Future Business Leaders of America at Cal-State Fullerton. During the question and answer session, one of the members asked, given the current lack of job security in corporate American, what can they do to create their own career security? As you have read in previous posts, I strongly believe that your success is not always determined by what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you. In other words, in the typical course of a career, you develop a reputation as a professional and subject matter expert among a small number of colleagues at the companies you work for, as well as possibly a few customers or vendors that you work with. However the circle that your reputation spreads to is very limited. One of the most effective ways to increase the reach of your professional reputation across an industry or function is via professional associations. However, I am not talking about just being a member and going to some networking events. I am talking about getting on committees, boards or working on projects for the association and even speaking at meetings on particular subjects of which you have expertise. This will allow others outside your normal circle of influence to get to know your professional thought process as well as how well you work with others. Active involvement in these capacities gives you opportunities to achieve accomplishments for the organization and also will provide you a platform of visibility. Then as you strategically plan your career advancement, you will have more advocates and a stronger network to help you reach your goals.

In my previous post, I wrote about 10 steps professionals in transition can take to rise up to their purpose. I received several comments that with a few modifications, this is also appropriate for professionals who are not in transition, so I decided to write a new post from this focus. Has the rat race got you going through the motions? What can you do to break free? How can you make 2012 the year that you play your career Above The Rim. As my good friend and mentor John Hall says, considering all the restructuring, downsizing, right sizing, mergers and acquisitions, and just “plain ol cost cutting”, job security in the corporate environment is a thing of the past. It is therefore incumbent on each person to strategically and purposefully take the steps to generate their own job security and maximize their career opportunities. Professionals must understand the value they bring to an organization, and create their personal brand based on their value proposition. Your personal brand is nothing more than your reputation as a professional and a subject matter expert. Typically, within our career, we naturally create this reputation or a personal brand identity with our colleagues, as well as a few vendors or customers we may deal with. However the reach of this brand identity is extremely limited. What can you do to take your career Above The Rim?

  1. Build a board of Advisors. Most successful executives have a handful of mentors or advisors. Each has different experiences and strengths that you can lean on. These advisors can be professors, colleagues, leaders in an industry, members of your church, and yes, your career coach. Discuss your career and dreams with your advisors. Seek their advice.
  2. Write a long-term career plan – Determine where you want to be in the next 3, 5 and 10 years. Do a S.W.O.T analysis to help you determine the best path for you to take. Determine any education, degrees, certifications or training you need to achieve your desired promotions. Consider the cost and time needed. Budget it and schedule it. Review it every year.
  3. Write a short term career plan. Assess what you want to accomplish in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Get feedback from your supervisors, colleagues and mentors to determine what will help you maximize your contribution to your company or organization. Review it every month.
  4. Understand the why of what you do, and learn how to articulate it – this really differentiates you.
  5. Create Case Studies of your accomplishments. Assess your projects and tasks you are working on, and understand what is the impact on the bottom line of a company. Keep in mind, in order to be of value to a company, your work has to help the company generate more revenue, cut more costs or mitigate more risk than the cost of employing you. Utilize your case studies in your performance reviews.
  6. Network inside your company. Have lunch with colleagues outside your department. Learn what you can do to positively impact others both inside and outside your department. Cultivate advocates throughout the company. Keep your ears open to learn of new projects, or new opportunities that can be promotional steps for you.

  7. Network outside your company. Join professional or industry associations and actively participate on projects, committees or board positions. This allows your reputation as a professional to spread beyond the colleagues you work with. When networking, remember it is not about you. Become a connector and pay it forward.
  8. Read professional publications and keep your knowledge up to date. Know industry current practices, trends, leaders and what is on the horizon.
  9. Pass on information you read and learn in a comprehensive campaign leveraging social media including blogs, LinkedIn, twitter and face book. A well developed social media campaign will positively impact your current company or organization, and spread your reputation as a subject matter expert.
  10. Pay it forward. Understand that the more you help others and facilitate opportunities for other, the more opportunities will be facilitated and created for you.

Like I said in my previous post, following the steps above is not easy. This is both good news and bad news. It is bad news, because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It is good news, because not many people are willing to go the extra mile and take their career Above The Rim. May 2012 be a year filled with blessings, one in which you leverage your skills, experience and passions to fulfill your purpose.

The first step in recognizing your personal brand identity is to understand what sets you apart from every other person competing with you for jobs. First, we are all created different. As I mentioned in the introduction we each have a unique set of skills, passions and experiences. We need to do a self-assessment to determine what those are. What are your motivating skills that really energize you when you are at work? Next, assess what your accomplishments have been throughout your career. In looking at your career, don’t think in terms of “I just did this process” or “I just did this task”. Every employee, in order to earn his or her salary needs to do one the following:

Think in terms of “In doing this task, I contributed this to the company. For example, rather than saying “I perform financial audits”, think about why the company needs you to prepare financial reports. In other words, the statement in a generic sense might change to “I reduce company costs and help the company operate more efficiently by performing financial audits”. The best indicator of success in a prospective position is past success. So, to take it a step further you need to develop specific accomplishment statements for what you have achieved throughout your career. These are often referred to as power stories or PARs (Problem, Action, Result) or STARs (Situation/Task, Action, Result), and can be generated by following:

Congratulations! You have your first PAR, or Power Story. Now repeat this process to create a bank of power stories that can be used throughout your job search as well as your career management. In my upcoming blog, I will talk about how these PARs and how you did them become the foundation for your branding.


In our current job market and economic climate, one of the most sought after yet difficult to attain aspects of our career is job security. With the average tenure at corporate positions, especially the more senior ones lasting an average of two and a half to three years, where can we get our security? The answer lies in our personal branding. It is through Personal Brand Equity that we can establish our value to employers past, present and future. However, where does our brand equity come from? Often times at networking events, I ask people what they do, and they respond by telling me their function, or possibly defining themselves by the tasks or processes they do at work. The problem is that this does nothing to indicate how well they do those tasks and processes, and it does nothing to differentiate them from everyone else who performs the same tasks and processes. When developing our personal brand identity, it is very important to understand that each of us has a unique shape that is a blend of skills, education, experiences and passions. It is through these that, in the process of doing tasks and processes for a company, we achieve accomplishments that contribute to the bottom line of an organization’s success. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing several blogs illustrating how to identify this blend of attributes and the accomplishments achieved throughout a career. Once you have this foundation of your personal brand, we will explore how to use this information to articulate your value proposition throughout your career management.