Sunday, May 1, 2016

What Do They Know, That You Don’t

Do professionals always apply to themselves what they dictate to others? Does a doctor provide his own family with the same guidance as for a patient?  I’ve heard of instances in which they don’t, such as chemo-therapy, for example, although I’m just posing a hypothetical question. 
During a recent conversation with an HR Director I know, I spoke about my advice to job seekers; that they should, instead of applying for a job through typical and accepted channels of applying online or establishing contact through HR, I instead suggest an alternate and more direct route. I advise people to do a bit of homework and try to learn who, by name, might be the person they’d work for and/or report to, in a particular company to which they would like to apply and work.  
Although she also admitted that it irritated her whenever managers engage with applicants directly, making her job a little more challenging, yet, she agreed with me! In fact, she shared that recently her own husband was looking for a job and although she is a senior HR professional who feels strongly about protocols and processes, she nonetheless advised him to establish contact directly with the hiring manager to reduce bureaucracy and the unnecessary scrutiny of those having nothing to do with the direct reporting chain for the position for which he was interested in being considered. To make a long story short -- he got the job. 
Need I say more -- the point I am trying to make is clear; you can stand in a virtual line like everyone else, or blaze your own trail. It doesn’t require anything more audacious than confidence in yourself and some extra effort.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

If You’re Going To Do It Anyway…

If or when you look for a job you’ve got to employ multiple methods and use every tool at your disposal. LinkedIn is one of those tools and, if you don’t know it, it is a primary tool used by recruiters and companies looking for potential employees. Doesn’t it make sense that in addition to your own efforts, it would be nice to get an unsolicited inquiry, people who find you instead of you always doing the chasing? But that doesn’t happen all by itself; you have to set the stage correctly and it doesn’t require that much extra effort. 
If you’re going to have a LinkedIn profile you should make it something worthy of yourself. If you put a lot of effort into having a good resume it’s simply a matter of posting the same information onto LinkedIn. How tough can it be? I know many very-accomplished and highly-regarded professionals whose LinkedIn profile is their resume – period; they don’t have another, it’s one in the same. With the option of posting reference letters, gaining endorsements for the skills you list about yourself, the many groups that are available to join and more, there is a lot you can take advantage of; it’s about more than simply posting your resume or CV. 
Never post your phone number but ensure you have a private email link. Having only your professional and work email address limits your appeal and inhibits people from reaching out to you – especially if they would like to reach out with a potential job opportunity. If you’re worried about what your boss might think, trust me, they are also being approached, making their concerns just a bit hypocritical.
If you are going to attempt to build a network on a venue such as LinkedIn or something similar, merely sending connection requests of people to build a classic network of contacts, go just one step further – after someone has added you, send them a small single sentence reply, thanking them for adding you accompanied with an additional sentence or question that can help to initiate or facilitate further dialogue. Remember that your goal should be to exploit the virtual tools available to you, in order to facilitate in-person introductions and meetings. Drive your efforts, rather than sitting mute as a mere passenger and bystander.
For any tool to be effective you have to take a little time to learn and know how to wield it in order to take full advantage of it. Regardless of whether you are looking for a job or simply trying to build a professional network, LinkedIn is a great tool for professionals and especially those beginning their careers. Take advantage of it while you can -- at least before and until it degenerates into being another Facebook. Regardless of what it is you are trying to accomplish, sometimes the difference between mediocrity and excellence is just a bit more effort on a consistent and conscious level, and if you’re going to be doing these things anyway, …

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Arrested Development

Looking back over the entirety of my career and work history thus far, I remember my very first job. My brother and I delivered a weekly local newspaper in Northeastern Ohio, called The Bulletin. Our route consisted of a relative circle and cross-streets equivalent of four blocks in our own neighborhood; I was 11 years old. Later, like most others of that period in time we had subsequent summer jobs until we graduated high school and entered the workforce full-time or went on to college and university. My interest in earning money transcended my interest in sports in school and by the time I was 17 and until graduation, I worked for a line service, refueling small and medium-sized private, corporate and commuter aircraft at Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie – which required an above-average level of responsibility for my age. After high school I joined the military and became a paratrooper – clearly, by the time I finished school I couldn’t wait to jump out into the real world and I’ve never since looked back.   
Fast forward to the present and things have changed. I suppose it is a generational consideration but is there a trend that those finishing their basic school requirements are opting to avoid the inevitability of joining the work-force? I still see conscientious young people working and wanting to work part-time and right out of school, but fewer and fewer seem incentivized, willing and much less interested. I notice excuses and procrastination in avoiding actual jobs, be they summer jobs, part-time or full-time. In other words, any of the jobs people engage in to get the most basic level of experience before they’ve entered and /or graduated from college or university. Worse yet, I encounter many who think such jobs are beneath them. 
Then, after college graduation many expect a job with a middle-class wage regardless of the fact that an increasing number of them never have worked at a real job (paying taxes) a day in their lives. Gaining even rudimentary work experience, even in those entry-level, low-paying jobs, provides dividends beyond a mere salary or hourly wage. They don’t develop the important interpersonal communication skills that a classroom environment cannot provide and are increasingly missing in the modern workplace. They also lack appreciation for standard and traditional work ethics to such degree they ridicule those who do learn, earn and possess what they themselves lack. 
A lot of the blame goes to parents who’ve accommodated and over-indulged their children by not encouraging them and when necessary, dispensing a little tough love for them to get a job and earn some of their own money. In my observations, the working classes still possess a sturdy and solid work ethic -- primarily because they have to. It’s no secret those who’ve been a bit too protected have difficulty adjusting to the real world when their fragile egos encounter slight turbulence – look no further than current American college campuses for proof. When they finally do experience the everyday demands of the workplace, or an inevitable disapproving boss, they melt and complain.
No doubt about it, a higher education is important and beneficial for those students with the option to obtain it. But knowledge and education with zero accompanying experience does not prepare oneself for the real world when suddenly confronted with a jobs market that has become more competitive than I can recall during my lifetime, when they are seeking a career in their area of study. In order to compete effectively for those jobs you have to have some backbone and at least the most basic interpersonal and soft skills or you are going to have a tougher time than is necessary. 
Perhaps it is just me, but I find it rather funny to speak with or read about those who’ve been perpetual students and have gone beyond their Bachelor’s degree, obtaining loftier academic pedigrees without any measureable work experience. Then, they speak with an air of authority about things they’ve yet to experience themselves, first-hand.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

80 or 20 Doesn’t Matter

Anyone who’s had to look for a job using the generally accepted and primary means of finding a job, that being predominantly online activity, knows it is a frustrating exercise. I know, as an expert in my field, there are tons of jobs not even posted that you won’t become aware of by limiting yourself to the digital online methods alone. I know that this method can be a demoralizing and dehumanizing exercise. Many others also know it, but subconsciously they fail to do anything about it and simply prefer to complain and resist the very things that can help – but may require more and real effort.
Conversely, there are some who’ve never had much of a problem because they work within a healthy market sector; their online activities have been easier. If you belong to this fortunate group then good for you, but don’t be smug, change is inevitable and we all pay our dues in life; we pay now or later, but everyone will go through a rough patch personally and/or professionally. I am rather philosophical about it and consider it a rite of passage, and a life without a measure of difficulty is a life unlived to its fullest.
I’ve heard figures quoted in surveys suggesting 80% of the available jobs are never posted online. Often these numbers are trumpeted by those who are consultants and career coaches. Conversely, others suggest this is nonsense and only a small percentage of select jobs, the real plum jobs, aren’t posted and they suggest the number is more likely about 20%. However, this perspective comes from the people singing the praises of soulless online services. They claim no company that wants to hire would hide their open positions. Though I can quickly counter that by reminding that posting jobs does have a cost to companies in both time and money and, as a result, companies do not post every available job they have and/or they prioritize that which is chosen to post. 
I base my judgment according to what I see and hear from both companies and job seekers. Clearly and factually, companies do not post every job and indeed they rank and prioritize what needs to be filled at any particular time. When I speak with job seekers, especially those who have been dedicated, looking and reacting on a regular basis, they know most of the jobs posted are the same ones they observe over and over again. From their perspective there is not much out there and when the same jobs come up every few months it means they are crappy jobs with high turnover. In fairness, it isn’t all bad and indeed there are good jobs posted online but they are fewer, with more people competing for them than ever – like a bucket full of minnows fightin’ over bread crumbs.
So if it isn’t 80%, nor it is 20% and I frankly think it is something in-between, does it really matter? Without a doubt there are many jobs you’ll not find nor be able to access by ritually peering into the new idiot-box display, which has supplanted the old idiot box -- television. Aimlessly reading job posts and doing nothing more to help yourself than sending a resume here and there and waiting to be summoned is a non-activity,  and a mere gesture of intention, rather than a real effort. LinkedIn is a good tool to exploit, although it is becoming increasingly like Facebook – which is not meant as a compliment. For those without a professional network of people with whom to interact, it is one way to build but, again recognize, it is not Facebook and should not utilized as such. Building a professional network takes time and if you want or need a job now, it is not a quick-fix answer but rather something you cultivate over time.
But here’s the hard truth: for a different or better result you must do that which is uncomfortable. I wouldn’t call the lack of will to step outside of your comfort zone laziness, but rather symptomatic of ignorance - and before people get all whiny and blame-throw accusations about micro-aggression as they run for their safe-space, I am using the word ignorance according to its true meaning, that of not having enough knowledge, understanding or information about something. 
It is understandable that, as the result of over-reliance upon online tools for a full generation, people lack the most basic skills with which to help themselves. Far too many people expect someone else, a device or an app to magically access and get them a job. When you hit rock bottom and get angry and frustrated enough, there is advice out there and my blog is FULL of helpful information for those who awaken to the reality that what they’re currently doing, isn’t enough.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Your Market Value

When someone is looking for a job, they may assume that the more resumes they throw out there, for as many people to see, is a good idea. But this heavily depends on what you do, what you’ve done and what you want to do and accomplish.
How effective this is depends on a few factors:
At what stage of your career are you? The less experience you have the more general and widely you can distribute your resume without consequence. The more experienced and established you are the more discriminating you should be about where your resume is distributed. 
Are you specialized or perhaps even subspecialized? The more specialized your career, the more selective you should be. 
How much in need (or desperate) are you to find a job? Your degree of need is a personal determination and different from individual to individual. Regardless, the previous two questions should have an influence.
There are other factors: the size of your professional market niche is a consideration. Are you working with recruiters or employment agencies is another. In both cases, it is not in your favor to toss around your resume like confetti. In a small professional niche word will spread that your resume is making the rounds. Likewise, if more than a couple recruiters are sending your paperwork around it can hurt you. You may be thinking that is a good thing and might make for a competitive side-effect in your favor. Rather the effect is the opposite, the perception whether true or not is that you are desperate. Things of great value are such because they are rare, conversely, that which is commonly laying around everywhere -- isn’t. If you work with a recruiter, you should make clear they should not distribute your resume without your notification and approval – especially if you are presently working while seeking another job. 
Last, you have to keep a running tally and record of where, when and to whom you’ve sent your resume. This is in order to not lose track and help prevent awkward moments when someone calls you and says they are interested in you and you have no clue as to who it is, or say something empty headed half-way into the conversation, such as, “Um, uh what company…” or “…who are you?” 
When you do receive a call, after the initial introduction one of your very first responses should be to ask in a friendly but professional tone, “And may I ask, how did you get my name (or resume)?” This conveys that it may have been through their receipt of your resume or perhaps they were referred personally to you.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Worse Than a Workplace Bully

If you have ever had to endure a workplace bully it is no small thing. When we’re children most of us learn you have to stand up and learn to deal with them head-on. But the workplace is different and it is not as simple. However, it is the same in that most bullies or, in this case abusive co-workers, are those with more insecurities and hang-ups than everyone else in the office combined. And oddly, they wield power and influence against others and somehow get away with it. How is it that these kinds of jerks are able to exist in a modern workplace with so many legal protections for employees and rules of conduct?
I see it often and this is a major reason as to why some companies lose good employees, which isn’t often discussed. In my part of the world, I see it at its most prevalent in the retail sector, manufacturing environments and within gov’t / state institutions.
The most disenfranchising and frustrating aspect of these kinds of situations is the responsibility lies not with the workplace bullies but rather the blame rests squarely on inept and/or derelict middle and upper management that does nothing about it. Such inaction translates into support of poor behavior. I make no secret of my rather low opinion of many less than impressive company managers I encounter; most are mediocre at best and woefully lacking in communication and people skills, almost devoid of leadership skills and qualities. The issue of bullies in the workplace should be relatively easy to remedy – yet too often nothing is done, allowing the circumstance to fester with corrosive effect on the company itself. But what can you do if you find yourself working with or for just such an offending personality?
Keep detailed journals of events, noting actions taken, or not taken, by management. Get a digital voice recorder, there are lots of them that are affordable, small and even wearable as pens or in other configurations; even Smart Phones can record. You can ask for other witnesses to back up your claim but this is unreliable as most people and even close friends  will shrink from their pledge of support when it’s crunch time. Without real evidence if or when the time comes, you have nothing but your word against theirs and the kind of people I am describing lie convincingly with a straight face. Accumulate your evidence - and don’t tell or reveal what you are doing to co-workers; you’re not doing it for them, but for yourself. If you reach a point at which you need the information, recognize you likely will not be able to continue in your current job; that’s just the way it goes. But at least you have something to protect yourself from being scapegoated by the very person who will twist events to bolster their hold on their position. I don’t believe in frivolous lawsuits but if need be, find an attorney. Especially in the U.S. there are plenty of liability lawyers who might have interest in helping as they are motivated by money, which is sometimes the only way to truly affect change among the selectively unresponsive, deaf and blind. 
If you don’t have the stomach to engage in the measures I suggest, then your only other option is to find another job and leave. Increasingly during the last few years I’ve heard really disturbing stories of good employees who, instead of being supported and believed, experience mental breakdowns and/or resort to medications to cope – and this is happening in an age when there are supposed to be protections from this sort of thing. No job, regardless of what it is or what it pays is worthy of that kind of treatment. Your dignity is yours and nobody can take it from you – unless you allow it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What to Avoid When You Resign

During the actual resignation meeting, as I already suggested, you should avoid getting sucked into a debate or conversation about your decision to leave your current employer. Even if you are on good personal terms, this isn’t a family meeting with members judging the sensibility or wisdom of your choice. Here are a few things to avoid to ensure a smooth and least stressful encounter: 

·         Don’t tell - They shouldn’t ask and you shouldn’t tell them where you’re going. You have no obligation to tell your current boss about your new plans, it’s simply none of their business – at that moment you are delivering / communicating your resignation. I know this may sound harsh, however, if you do tell them it will provide ammunition or fodder to use against you in order to create doubts in your mind about your decision. Regardless of what they may have to say, they’ll rarely have your best interests at heart. Typically, they are more concerned about the company or their own status and how your resignation might affect them.  

·         Don’t be an activist - Sometimes when someone resigns, there are others who are also unhappy. When you resign you are not some kind of a labor leader or a rebel who will speak on behalf of your co-workers, voicing their grievances. Indeed, others may wish, hope or suggest that you speak on their behalf, but when the moment comes for them to step up, they more often will not, leaving you standing solitary and alone, looking foolish. Just resign and be on your way because the whole point is to be able to exit and move onward to a new and hopefully more promising job opportunity. 

·         Don’t delay your decision – a common tactic among managers is to convince you to delay your resignation, perhaps just a few days so they can talk with other managers to see what they can do to convince you to stay, and then they’ll get back to you. If you have decided to leave and your decision is, in fact, final, thank them politely and stick to your original purpose, that is, to submit your resignation. Besides, you didn’t set an appointment to negotiate or have a group discussion about your intent. (if you do choose to engage in discussion, I would surmise you are not sure about your resignation and, if this is the case,  proceed at your own risk) 

·         Don’t complain, don’t explain – Keep your resignation short. If you do want to share with them the reasons for your departure, don’t do it now. For the moment, resign and seek their recognition and acceptance of your decision. Then, if you want to have a discussion with them at a separate meeting, do so – after the cord has been cut.  

·         Keep it short - if you want to give a long-winded speech, save it for your farewell gathering at the local watering hole with your co-workers. 

·         Don’t play games – I have seen people actually use a job offer as a wedge, with no true intention of leaving their current job, but rather using it to leverage for themselves a better condition, or more money. I think people who do this are dirtbags, cowards who couldn’t simply address their boss like an adult with integrity. Not to mention the fact they’ve jerked around another company and possibly caused the person who was supposed to become their new manager grief with their boss – actions such as these have consequences. 

Don’t forget that you have your resignation letter printed and signed, stating your decision is final. If you feel under pressure, it is your shield, use it as such.