Category Archives: Job Search Blog

How to discover the job and career you will love

 

I’ve helped over 10,200 individuals find a job or change careers since 1973.  I’m asked, quite often, “Tony, how can I find a job or career that I will love?”

I discovered a few simple, not necessarily easy, but simple principals that these people practice:

  1. They assess and know their aptitudes.

They know what they are strong and what they are weak at. By the time most professional athletes are 18 or 19 years old they know what they have an aptitude for. They’ve measured those aptitudes in competitive sports situations. Business people, however have a little more difficulty. I recommend that people at a young age have their aptitudes tested, and not by some $25 online aptitude test.  I’m talking about places like Johnson O’Connor or AMES testing – people who do elaborate tests and give you an elaborate report about your personal aptitudes.

Many people hate their jobs and hate their careers because they are trying to work in a field they don’t have a natural aptitude for. It leads to a mediocre life. If you’re not good at math, it’s not likely you would make a good accountant.

Most of us fall into what we have an aptitude for quite by accident. We try enough things and then fall into a job or career that might take advantage of our natural abilities, but aptitude testing may quickly reveal most of our strengths and weaknesses. When aptitudes are honed and well-developed, we end up calling them gifts. But those polished gifts didn’t start out that way. They were raw to begin with.

Knowing your aptitudes is the first step. Then…

  1. Expect to begin as a total novice and then work really, really, really hardand discover flow and the zone.

Working really hard means accepting ignorance, then breaking down the basic functions of the job and then doing them over and over until they are mastered. This means an investment of a phenomenal amount of time and effort even when they are exhausted and want to quit.

Working really hard means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, as well as being overwhelmed most of the time. It means drinking through a fire hose and being exhilarated by being overwhelmed.

Unless they are fortunate enough at a very early age to be involved in some kind of intense endeavor like sports or music where intense practicing starts early in life, somewhere along the line, the very first time, quite by accident, people who love their career find themselves falling into flow and “the zone.”  For most of us, the first time this experience occurs is in an intimate relationship with someone we love, prayer, meditation or maybe holding a baby. All of a sudden, there is no thinking, just doing. They are conscious of only the very present moment, not the past, not the future, just the moment.  Their work flows out of them effortlessly. It is joyous, fun, playful, even spiritual.  It becomes an art form and the worker becomes the artist. This state doesn’t happen every day but the more often it comes the more often it comes again and the more often it’s desired.

By being a beginner and working harder than anyone else, reaching the zone of flow from time to time…Then…

  1. Seek the intrinsic value in what they do.

They look for their own personal, internal growth and satisfaction as much as they do in perfecting what they do. They practice what they do for the sheer fun and joy of doing it and because it makes them feel good as they are growing, it takes a life of its own.

The momentum of intrinsic growth and getting better and better leads to the fact that:

4 They really love and are passionate about what they do.

Next to their relationship with God and their family, they enjoy what they do more than anything else. They often enjoy it more than they want to eat or sleep. They are so passionate and enthusiastic about it, what they do becomes a part of them and they become a part of what they do. They personally identify with their work and it brings them joy and happiness. They often have to force themselves to step away and refresh.

This doesn’t mean that they like what they do all the time. There is a big part of what they do that involves difficult, excruciating “pain”… not fun or pleasant at all. They do learn to appreciate what they don’t like, recognizing that is part of the pathway to success.

They love what they do so much:

  1. They do it for a purpose or vision greater than they are.

The purpose of doing what they do transcends making a living. They see the purpose of what they do in the light of its impact on others, even all of mankind. It takes on a spiritual dimension that’s greater than the activity. This greater purpose transforms their work and their job into a calling. It is a personal mission to affect the greater world with their work

The greater purpose or vision leads to:

  1. A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit.

Everyone who loves their career and their job lives with a permanent amount of paranoia. No matter how accomplished they become they always a little voice inside of them asking themselves, “Are you really that good?  Can I do it again today?”

One of the best metaphors for this healthy paranoia is this thought:  “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Courage in this metaphor is the faith and the confidence that I can and will run. Courage gives me the confidence to practice running, which gives me more courage to run harder and faster. Courage counterbalances the paranoid and keeps paranoia from simply freezing me from inactivity.

…and grit …It’s the experience in our metaphor of running “until I am totally exhausted, but have the perseverance and passion to get up and keep running.” The tension between paranoia and courage leads to creativity.

A healthy balance of paranoia, courage and grit leads to:

  1. 7. Great clarity and simplicity in explaining what they do.

Their clarity is astounding. They explain what they do in its simplest format. This doesn’t mean that what they do is easy! Just because they can explain it simply doesn’t mean that it is easy. Bench pressing 500 pounds is simple but it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very hard… very hard.

Clarity and simplicity lead to seeing things for what they really are. These people deal with reality… hard-core reality.

Great clarity and simplicity leads to:

  1. They develop a system, a process of doing business and personal rituals and routine for life.

 They focus on the process and they don’t worry about the results. If they focus too much on results, anxiety and fear of failure will result. They focus on the steps in the process because they can control them. They love the process as much as the accomplishment.

Most of the people who love and develop their career live routine lives with lots of rituals. They develop specific patterns for living that allow their cognitive and emotional efforts to focus on their work. They don’t have to expend a lot of emotional or mental energy in deciding which white shirt to wear or which black pair of socks to choose or what time to meditate every day. Rituals and routines alleviate the conscious energy needed to make small inconsequential decisions. Those routine decisions, added together, take a tremendous amount of mental and emotional effort.  Rituals and routines conserve mental and emotional energy so it can be used for the creative aspects of work.

Developing a process with rituals and routines leads to:

  1. The 10,000 hour principal and expecting a phenomenal number of failures and setbacks – reaching unconscious competency.

 Okay, maybe it’s not exactly 10,000 hours exactly when a person becomes totally competent. But people who really learn to love their job and career put a phenomenal amount of time in doing what they do. They practice over and over and over and over when most people would give up. They experience of phenomenal number of failures and setbacks. They love what they do so much they bounce back from those setbacks and that separates them from most people.

They reach unconscious competency. Unconscious competency allows them to think and focus on the parts of their work that need improvement. They do the majority of the work without a conscious effort leaving the mind free to focus on the creative side of the endeavor. They have so many mental models of what can happen or will happen they just plain “know what to do” at the right time. They appear to be geniuses to others, but it is their level of competency that allows them to simply “know.”

Their process of ‘”practice” and expecting a phenomenal number of failures leads to:

  1. Finding mentors and being a constant student, then becoming a mentor.

Some of us are fortunate enough to simply fall into finding good teachers.

Hopefully, the mentors we find are good practitioners and good leaders. But bad leaders can often be great practitioners. We may be able to learn a practice or skill from someone who might be a jerk. The physician who has the habit of smoking might be a great practitioner of medicine, but a lousy mentor of what to do. We can learn from skilled practitioners who might be lousy human beings.  We can learn from bad managers.  Maybe we learn what not to do or how not to be from these people.

People who love their career know that after seeking mentors, becoming a mentor is a tremendously high priority. Teaching others elevates a person’s intellect and mastery of what they do. After all, the teacher always learns more than the student.

Which leads to:

  1. Humility and gratitude

The kind of people we’re speaking of have a tremendous amount of humility. Their accomplishments never seem to go to their head. In fact, most often they don’t think their accomplishments or successes are that big a deal. They don’t compare themselves to other people, they compare themselves to their own perception of their potential. Since they are always striving to be better they gracefully accept what they have accomplished. They have a healthy ego but not a big ego.

There humility leads to a great deal of gratitude. Most of us acknowledge our Creator for the gifts we have received. But even if we aren’t sure of where those attributes and gifts have come from, we are grateful for the opportunity to work…to practice our skills daily.  Even we can’t believe our own accomplishments. We are in awe of the whole thing!

Which leads to:

  1. We reframe stories of our past… And write stories of our future.

When I was 10 years old I wrote a story of myself being Superman. When I learned I couldn’t fly I reframed this story that at least I could become the strongest man on earth. When I imagined a story of myself becoming a doctor when I went to college, I reframed my story when I had to drop out of freshman chemistry right before I failed it. When I imagine the story of getting a PhD in higher education and becoming president of a college in 1973, my beautiful wife Chris reframed that story when I couldn’t find a job by explaining to me that she was pregnant with our first child, I had no job and we’d better get to Texas and go to work.

Being storytellers of our own lives, reframing it and rewriting it we come to the conclusion that:

  1. What they grow to become is more important than what they accomplish.

These kind of people realized that how they grow personally is more important and everlasting than whatever they accomplish. No matter how accomplished they become externally they will always strive to become better internally. They know how they grow internally is permanent and everlasting. Every generation is full of externally successful people who, in the long run, implode. Our newspapers report daily about people who are appear to have it all and because their heart and soul don’t expand to the level of their seemingly external greatness, they self-destruct, often destroying others with them. Their “inside” doesn’t grow to the level of their “outside” and they can’t keep the “outside” façade from crumbling. What they became in the process of getting what they wanted isn’t very great.

People who love their career remember the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The purpose of this life is not prosperity as we know it, but rather the maturing of the human soul.

… A sobering experience and a sad feeling

I’ve known Sean Copeland for more than 20 years. I placed him a number of times and he was also a client of mine from time to time. We weren’t bosom buddies or good friends. I guess I’d call him a business friend. I’m in the kind of business that I only run into people when they need me… either to help them find a job or help them find an employee. But it is amazing how I’ve gotten to know so much about so many people over so many years. It is not uncommon for me to help them find their first or second job and follow them through their career, not only as they change jobs, but as they raise their families and grow older. I remember when his 11-year-old son was born.

One of my associates told me Friday that Sean and his 11-year-old son were killed in Nice, France last week, and asked me if I knew him. They were the only two Americans to be murdered there. It’s kind of amazing that of only two Americans, they would have ties to Dallas.

Sean was a good guy. He talked about his kids and his family and they were always more important than business. I called Sean about a year ago to see if he was happy in his job and he said that he was. I hadn’t spoken to him since. As I say, I go in and out of people’s lives, depending on the need.

This terrorism thing, the murderers of a policeman… the murderers of anybody for that matter, should touch us all, but they’re a little more shocking and hurtful when you personally know the people. It is sobering to think of how all of those people in France and the victims of the shootings here in America had close relatives and friends even as distant as I was to Sean.

And the folks in this world who don’t want to admit that evil exists don’t know how to explain this kind of thing. These kinds of murders should not happen, but they do. Evil does exist and it does try to steal souls in these outward manners as well as more subtle ones.

These kinds of things put the normal function of business that we throw ourselves into every day, thinking it is so important and all-consuming, into perspective. I’ll pass by Sean’s name in the database from time to time and I’ll leave it there and offer up a little prayer for his soul and that of his 11-year-old son too. The world is mysterious.

And, as hard as it is to do, I will pray for the guy that murdered him also. I really don’t want to, but I will.

 

…our client’s new employee

 Our firm has placed close to 200,000 people. Hardly a week goes by, though, that we don’t get a call from a candidate who has recently started a new job. We pick up the phone and hear, “Oh, my gawd! I have made a terrible mistake! This job (place, or  people) isn’t anything like what I thought. I’m gonna leave!”

Since our average recruiter has been in this profession for more than sixteen years, and some as many as thirty and forty, we’re usually able to calm them down and convince them to give the new opportunity the time and effort necessary to really judge it. Much of the time, we’re successful in getting them to stay at least long enough to make a good judgment about the opportunity. Without our help, we’re sure that 90 percent of the scared new employees would promptly walk out the door, never giving the new job a real chance. Part of our expertise is to be prepared for this kind of conversation.

Comments to a new employee within their first hour on the new job often make them feel unwelcome. They hear, “Well, someone forgot to tell the IT department you were coming, so they won’t have your computer for a couple of days,” or “The HR department forgot to tell the controller you were starting today, so we won’t have your paperwork until this afternoon,” or “We don’t quite have your desk ready, so just sit here and read the policy manual until lunchtime,” and “The person who’s going to train you is out today and tomorrow.” We’re absolutely amazed how often this kind of thing happens. “Just read the employee manual or handbook” or “just review the orientation videos” isn’t the way to start a good relationship.

 

What experienced hiring authorities do

Experienced hiring authorities realize that no matter how good the interviewing and hiring process is there are always some surprises in a new job. They realize that a new employee is downright scared, and despite their enthusiasm and desire for the job, they’re still wondering if they made the right decision. Experienced hiring authorities are prepared for this and ensure that the new employee’s first 90 to 120 days are intentionally structured and monitored correctly by themselves or others.

The most important thing that a successful hiring authority can do is to simply give the new hire personal attention and the attention of other people. The idea is to be sure that the new hire feels like an important part of the organization. The experienced hiring authority lets the new hire know they’re special and should feel comfortable in asking any question they may have.

Mentors and trainers

Assigning a formal or informal mentor to the new employee is crucial to the new employee’s success. The best organizations have a formal program for this, but any organization can have an informal mentorship program. The mentor doesn’t have to be the person who is actually training the new employee in their job function. In fact, often people who are the best “functional” trainers aren’t necessarily the best people to help a new hire personally integrate into a company. They’re often very knowledgeable about the tactical aspects of the job, but often impatient or impersonal. They’re so wrapped up in doing their job that they don’t emanate a “We’re Sure Glad You’re Here!” feeling to a new employee. The analytical IT guy or gal who shows the new hire how to use the CRM system isn’t likely to be a warm personality.

There’s usually someone in the department or on the staff of even the smallest firms who are kinesthetic, amiable people who love helping others. Often, a senior administrative person who really knows the ins and outs of the company is best at this. This kind of mentor is responsible for the new hire’s personal comfort and understanding of the company.

This kind of mentor is also an excellent source for the hiring authority to talk to about how the new hire is doing in the new job. Should the new hire have any concerns or second guesses, they’ll often share them informally with this kind of mentor instead of the hiring authority. This kind of mentor communicates, “This is how we do it here” in both formal and informal policies and procedures.

Shocks and surprises

Unfortunately, in many organizations there are things going on anywhere from uncomfortable to downright toxic. Of course, these kinds of things are never discussed in the interviewing cycle. It’s very important for new hires to be introduced to the issues as quickly and carefully as possible. A few years ago, we had a client where the husband and wife owners were going through a terribly adversarial, knockdown-drag out divorce. They were using the company as their battleground, and, predictably, the company was in turmoil. Of course the situation was never mentioned to our candidate during the hiring process, but after she had been on the job for no more than a day or so she learned about the situation.

Interestingly enough, all of the people in the company had learned how to work around the relatively crazy situation. The husband and wife came and went at different times during the day and the environment was tense. Amazingly, the company survived and actually prospered well beyond its perceived potential once the two owners stepped away from running it. Go figure!

Our candidate, in this situation, was distressed for the first few days after she found out about the acrimonious divorce. Obviously, she was shocked and a little disappointed that she hadn’t been told about the situation during the interviewing process. The hiring authority admittedly was afraid that if the candidate knew about the kind of environment that existed she wouldn’t have taken the job. It worked out, but the point is that these kinds of issues need to be explained to a new hire as soon as possible in the right way.

Even if the shocks and surprises aren’t as toxic as the example here, most every company has some issues like this. Idiosyncratic personalities like a CFO who thinks he or she knows everything, or a CEO who borders on being an egomaniac, or a company busybody who sticks their nose in everybody’s business, aren’t uncommon at all. Many organizations tolerate backbiting, negative people because of their functional expertise. These types often latch onto new hires to sow seeds of negativity. Off-the-record discussions about these personalities with a new employee, as well as advice about how everyone deals with them, are in order.

Core dumping

Best hiring authorities avoid core dumping, that is, dumping everything the new employee should or needs to know all in one day, week, or month. A wise hiring authority has a formal schedule to train the new employee one step at a time. And those steps are usually extremely s-l-o-w steps. New hires are already overwhelmed with paperwork and trying to get settled into a position. Being bombarded with everything doesn’t help.

A segmented approach, teaching one skill or topic per day over a reasonable period of time, is manageable. A good trainer and an informal mentor should also have the training schedule for the new hire. Even though the hiring authority communicates that his or her door is always open, a new hire will be more likely to ask a trainer or a mentor what might be perceived as mundane, but important questions.

Be patient, but not too patient

Experienced hiring authorities move new hires along as fast as the new hires can tolerate learning. They have a good feel for exactly how fast new hires ought to learn. They know the difference between a strongly engaged, excited, focused new employee who wants to learn as rapidly as possible and an employee who has simply taken a j-o-b.

It’s hard to give an exact prescription for the formula. Experienced hiring managers usually know exactly where new hires ought to be in the first two to three weeks, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days. They usually impart those milestones to the new hire by setting the right expectations clearly and precisely in the training program, as well as in conversations. Some people catch on faster than others, but there are some things in the learning process that are foundational for a new hire to comprehend. Experienced hiring authorities know what those are.

Speed in catching on may not be as important as the catching on itself. Patience here may definitely be a virtue. Patience, however, with the consistent tardiness or absence of a new employee or a great deal of personal distractions at work can’t be tolerated. As we mentioned in the chapter on firing folks, the difference between experienced and excellent hiring authorities and the average ones is that they know the difference between what they can be patient with and what they shouldn’t.

Experienced hiring authorities have a conceptual time frame that a new hire should be given to learn the basics of their job. The best hiring authorities give clear directions to new hires, especially in the beginning. They make the necessary steps to be successful completely clear to the new hire, as well as what needs to be done to keep their job. If they find themselves reviewing with a new hire too many of the “in order to keep your job” issues instead of the “to really be successful” issues, they’re on their guard that this relationship may not last long.

First 90 to 120 days

The first 90 to 120 days of the new hire’s employment are crucial. Many experienced hiring authorities can give a great evaluation of a new hire sooner than that, but 90 to 120 days is crucial. By then, the new employee has communicated their work habits, intelligence, and commitment to the job. Experienced hiring authorities have paid close attention to the new hire during that period of time. They error on the side of caution and careful evaluation during that period of time rather than cutting the new hire too much slack by using the excuse of, “Well they’re new.” New hires still need to perform at the level of their competency. In fact, experienced hiring authorities are usually harder on their new hire evaluations in the first 90 to 120 days than they are later. Many experienced hiring authorities have formal face-to-face evaluation meetings with the new hire every 30, 60, 90, and 120 days. These don’t have to be long meetings but they should be direct and to the point. Written evaluations are wonderful. Experienced hiring authorities know that the tone set in the first 120 days of a new hire’s employment will set the tone for their future success.

…You paid good money for this?

 

A really good candidate calls me and sends in his resume. Now I appreciate the anxiety and difficulty that people have in finding a job, let alone writing a resume, etc., but this guy’s got more than 20 years of sales and sales management experience. I looked at his resume and had to ask him, “Did you pay money for this?”

The very first page and a half… a whole page and a half…was written in 10 point characters. It is tremendously busy with nowhere near enough white space. The “content” of this first page and a half began with things like “self-motivated… assertive… confident… personable/likable… fast-paced… complex (not sure what that means)… collaborative… committed to professional growth… effective… productive under pressure”, etc. These were followed by comments like, “leadership philosophy, do your best and have fun… making things happen…strong strategic account planning and execution with creative approach to problem solving… tenacious drive.” And on the first page there were nine text boxes that had things like, “new market development and growth… up selling… cross-selling… C-level sales presentations…” in them. Even Starbucks isn’t this busy on Saturday morning at 8 AM.

In the middle of the second page he begins his “professional experience.” He provides NO dates… you read right …NO dates of employment for each one of the experiences he describes. He describes what each company does but does NOT give the name of the last five companies that he’s worked for. He describes them with things like, “business intelligence and analytics software firm,”… “This billion-dollar company that provides electronic design automation software.”  NO dates and NO names of companies. No wonder he isn’t getting any interviews.

I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the picture. For what it’s worth, the observations get worse. This fellow paid $500 to have somebody write this. Unbelievable!

Any reasonable businessperson should be able to write their own resume. Some resume writers really know what they’re doing and some don’t. Here is the challenge that resume writers have – none of them really ever found anyone a job. They may write a seemingly good resume but they don’t really find anyone a job. They often write resumes that they think hiring authorities and companies want to see. They will tell most consumers that their customers “like” the resumes they write. This fellow, a very accomplished twenty-year sales veteran, should’ve been able to see that this resume wasn’t going to get him anywhere. What a candidate thinks of her resume and what a resume writer thinks of the resume they write may not have anything to do with what the hiring authority might want in a resume.

Here are a few basic points about resumes that keep it simple

People don’t care about your “professional summary,” “objective,” etc. They care about, “what can you do for me TODAY!” Remember that whoever is reading your resume doesn’t really “read” your resume. They scan your resume to see if they know the companies you worked for, what you did at those companies in terms they understand and what your performance was. It’s that simple. 99% of the people who initially look at your resume DON’T READ IT!! They scan it. If they see what they like, they set it aside and either really read it later or simply call you for an interview. It’s that simple! Just because, for instance, you know what your company, ABC, Inc. does, does not mean the resume reader will know what ABC, Inc. does. There are 1.7 million businesses in the United States and I guarantee you very few of them state what they do in their name.

There are thousands of books and articles about resumes. I’ve written one of those books and a number of articles. Some of the folks that write them know what they’re doing and some don’t. Use common sense. Ask yourself, “is this resume going to compete well with the 180 other resumes the hiring authority is going to be sent? Does it tell people who I’ve worked for, what they do and how successful I was?”

I told my candidate he ought to ask for his $500 back. Probably should’ve minded my own business.

 

 

 

…routines and rituals in your job search

I recommend in all of my books and especially our online job search program, www.thejobsearchsolution.com, the importance of rituals and routines in your job search. Whether you’re looking for a job full-time or looking for a job while you have one (which is like having two jobs) it’s very important to develop specific patterns of  living (rituals and routines) that allow you to focus your mental and emotional efforts on doing everything you can to find a job.

Routines and rituals mean that you set a schedule that you follow every single day of your job search. If you’re looking for a job full-time, it’s writing out a specific schedule that you don’t deviate from so that you don’t have to “think” and spend mental energy on inconsequential decisions. Inconsequential decisions like, “What time should I get up tomorrow?”… “Which shirt should I wear today?”… “What suit should I wear?”… “What should I have for breakfast?”… “What time should I eat lunch?”… “Who should I call about an interview?”… “What plan should I have for today?”    “Should I simply blow today off and go play golf?”… added together take a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy.

The result of too many of these inconsequential decisions is called decision fatigue. There have been a tremendous number of psychological studies showing that even after making a number of inconsequential decisions that are just that, inconsequential, people get emotionally and psychologically tired and they don’t do as well on cognitive tests.

Decision fatigue is further exacerbated when someone is looking for a job because of the emotional strain of looking for a job and, if it’s the case, trying to keep a job they don’t like which they are leaving as well as trying to find a new one. Decision fatigue can happen really quickly and put the individual in a debilitating mood. I’ve often wondered how much this factor plays in those 94.7 million people who are out of work with 50% of them reporting that they just plain quit looking.

Routines and rituals help minimize decision fatigue. Minimal decision fatigue frees an individual’s mental and emotional efforts to focus on the process of looking for a job, i.e. getting interviews, performing those interviews, etc. It’s hard enough to function well in the job search process without decision fatigue. Bluntly, there’s always going to be some of it, but the idea is to minimize it as much as possible.

Are your rituals and routines helping you?

 

…I own my own business

 

A candidate thinks that he wants to communicate he is an entrepreneur, so he tells the hiring authority that he has a business on the side. He also tells the hiring authority that it is very successful and that it “runs itself” and that he has a manager that runs it. It is his wife.

Now, if you are trying to hire someone to work really hard for you, whose money do you think the candidate is going to protect first…yours and your company’s or his???

If the business is so successful, why would one look for a job?

Pleeeeez…if you have a business on the side you will kill your chances of getting hired by telling an employer about it.

On top of that …you’ll look stupid!

… Advice

Not a week goes by that at least three candidates turn down excellent job opportunities because of advice from other people. Instead of using common sense, they convolute the decision making process by becoming phenomenally confused because they ask the opinions about what they should do from people who really have no idea what they’re talking about. They get so many opinions from so many people they get confused. Confusion leads to fear and fear leads to them doing nothing.

Advice about changing jobs or what kind of job you ought to take is like advice about marriage. Everyone who has ever been married thinks they know something about it. Many people don’t know their own marriage very well, let alone, someone else’s. Most people know very little about what kind of job might be available for someone else, but because they have looked for a job or found a job before they will give their advice as though it was absolute and global.

So, the first thing a job seeker ought to do is to limit the number of people they get job search advice from. The second thing is to be sure that the people they ask are credible. Do they know you? Do they know your industry or profession you are in well enough to give valuable advice. Your loved ones, spouses, family and your close friends may know you really well, but they may not know the perspective of the kind of business you are in. They may act like it, but most of the time they don’t. Heavily consider the qualifications of the people you seek advice from. Your mother may think that your the best oceanographer in the world, and you may be, but she has absolutely no idea of the prospects of you finding a job in Dallas, Texas… (Very poor… we don’t have any oceans here).

Feature this, your pastor or spiritual adviser may know a great deal about spiritual life and even your spiritual practices. But he or she may not know squat about the accounting profession, or sales or engineering. Your spouse loves you but doubtfully knows the landscape of your profession. They probably think… In fact I hope they do.. that you ought to be the president of the Western world. Let’s face it, they love you and want what’s best for you but they really don’t know how you might get that job.

I have found that even 60% of the advice about finding a job on the Internet isn’t incredible and some of it is flat out awful. I’ve written in other posts about some of the junk posted on the Internet written by people who have either found a job or two or hired a few people and then write about ideas that are absolutely foolish. Quick example: there are literally hundreds of articles on the net about how to apply for job by sending your resume to a company’s job posting. These authors teach people how to “customize” their resume to the posting, etc. Out of close to 100 articles I reviewed, not one of them…NOT one..explains that 30% of the job opportunities that are “posted” are not really open or that the odds of finding a job in this way are 1 in 375. 99% of the people writing these articles are authors, researchers, professors, HR professionals, ex-HR professionals etc., most of whom have, at best, a very narrow perspective…theirs..of what’s going on with the job market.

So, get advice from whomever you wish. But realize the perspective from where the advice comes from. Take it with a big chunk of salt and compare it to what you are experiencing. Unless the people you are getting advice from are in the trenches, helping people find jobs every day be careful.

 

THE TOP 10 MISTAKES JOB SEEKERS MAKE IN USING LINKEDIN

 

LinkedIn has certainly changed the complexion of looking for a job. Some people will claim it has helped individual’s job searches and some people will claim that it does nothing but make their job search more difficult. Some people claim, for instance, that they won’t put their picture on LinkedIn because it reveals their age. Some employers will not consider interviewing a candidate who doesn’t have their picture on LinkedIn. The tool, however, is here to stay and we all better make it “our friend.” Here are the top 10 mistakes that job seekers make in using LinkedIn:

#1 Waiting to start using LinkedIn until you are unemployed.  You should be a proficient user of LinkedIn before you ever start looking for a job. The best time to start using it is before you need a job in order to expand your professional network with recruiters and hiring managers. Building a good profile, developing solid relationships and most importantly, creating a profile brand, takes time. Getting people to know who you are before you need a job is really important.

#2 Not being an “active LinkedIn user.” It’s not only important to create a well-branded, search- optimized profile, it’s important to know how to be a real user. Get to know all of the features that LinkedIn can provide you before you need them. For instance, the ability to find all of the alumni of your college or university in the area where you live is a great way to seek interviews. You should know how to do this before you start looking for a job.

#3 No picture at all, or a bad, inappropriate picture. It may not come as a shock, but there are a lot of employers who won’t even consider a candidate who doesn’t have their picture posted on their LinkedIn profile. And, what’s just as poor, is a bad or inappropriate picture. A picture taken with an old iPhone, in poor light, making your head look like an egg, does not help you. A picture of you fishing, playing golf, coaching your child’s baseball team or a picture of you with the bear you just shot, all communicate someone who is not serious about business. Lots of people think that people who shoot bears are miserable and cruel people and don’t want them around their company no matter how good they are. These kinds of pictures end your potential candidacy before it has even begun.

#4 Inaccurate information (seemingly). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen situations where a person’s LinkedIn profile did not agree with their resume. End of discussion and end of consideration.

#5 Not having a robust profile. Minimal descriptions of who you worked for and what you’ve done before not only doesn’t communicate being proud of what you’ve done before, it doesn’t give people the information that they need to elevate you. Talk about your previous jobs in very positive terms, preferably, with some kind of performance measurements. People like numbers.

#6 Not having any, or very few, recommendations or endorsements. You should have at least two recommendations for each job listed in the experience section of your profile and at least 50 skills listed in your “skills” section of your profile so people can find you using those terms.

#7 Not having enough contacts. Your goal is to have at least 501 connections on LinkedIn so you have the added branding power of “500+.” We’ve experienced candidates being eliminated, especially for sales opportunities, because they didn’t have a significant number of contacts. (“How could a successful sales person have only 100 contacts?”) But even if you’re not in sales, you need to have a significant number of contacts. A small number of contacts communicates poor social skills. Remember that business is a “contact sport” and the more contacts you have the better “athlete” you appear to be.

#8 Not having a customized LinkedIn URL. This should be used for all your marketing information so people can reach you quickly. Remember, your first and last name is the #1 searchable term on LinkedIn. So, you want to change your vanity URL to remove all of those unnecessary characters and just have your first and last name if possible. This will not only provide a nice-looking, branded LinkedIn URL, but it will also allow you to be found more often for your #1 searchable term on LinkedIn… your first and last name.  Also, be sure to include your phone number on your profile where people can easily see it.

#9 The first 35 to 40 characters of your headline are not descriptive. The first 35 or 40 characters need to describe exactly who you are and what you do at a glance. However, simply listing a job title and a company name as your headline is not a brand. It’s much better to use every one of the 120 available characters to list those searchable terms that not only tell people what you’ve done but what you can do for them. People are going to “scan” your profile more than they are going to read it. Your headline needs to capture their interest.

#10  Not listing your jobs and companies you worked for in reverse chronological order. People are not interested in the first job you had. They are interested in knowing what you’re doing now and then work backwards looking at what you’ve done before. You should do this just like a resume.

Quit thinking that a LinkedIn profile really doesn’t matter in your job search. It does matter, a lot.  In October of last year LinkedIn surpassed 414 million users. Every second, two new users sign up for LinkedIn.  If you have a poor or dismissive attitude towards LinkedIn, it doesn’t matter, but the people who are trying to hire you have a high regard for it. I can’t tell you the number of candidates who I’ve represented whose LinkedIn profile was terrible and my client simply told me that with a LinkedIn profile that poor, they just didn’t want to interview them. My candidates inevitably say “Well, I don’t use LinkedIn and it doesn’t matter.” It does matter! A poor LinkedIn profile communicates to a prospective employer that the candidate couldn’t be serious about finding a job.

 

…The Uber drivers… Isn’t America wonderful

I had a neck operation four weeks ago and for two weeks I couldn’t drive. My grown sons had introduced me to Uber and since I only live three miles from the office, it was perfect to get back and forth from home. It’s often in the course of a normal day’s events that an appreciation for certain people and situations becomes more pronounced.

On one of the mornings going from home to the office I was picked up by Adam. Being in the people business I’m aware that everyone has a story, especially Uber drivers. Adam drives a Prius (… I already think I like him, because I own one of those). The car isn’t particularly clean but it’s not offensive. Adam is wearing jeans and a sport shirt, with rather shaggy hair. I ask him how long he’s been driving Uber and how he likes it. He answers, “I’ve been driving for about two years and it’s okay. I also drive for Lyft and they are okay too. It would be better if they paid more. It’s hard to make money with these guys. Nobody takes into account the depreciation on your car and stuff like that. But it’s okay. It’s a job that I can do anytime I want; I just wish they paid more.” As I got out of the car, I looked down and saw a little “Bernie” medallion hanging on Adam’s key chain.

Going home that evening I order up another Uber. A shiny, freshly washed and waxed black Suburban pulls up. Before I can open the door, Kino jumps out of the driver’s seat. He is dressed in a black suit, a freshly pressed white shirt with a black tie. He states, “Good evening, Tony. I’m Kino and I’ll be driving you home this evening. Let’s put your briefcase in the back seat.” He takes my briefcase and carefully puts it in his backseat. He opens the front door and I get into the passenger seat that appears to been freshly conditioned with leather conditioner. The Suburban smells clean and fresh and I could have eaten off the floor.

Kino asks me if I need to make any stops on my way home. He tells me it’s going to be a great ride and he’s proud to have me as a guest. Get that…a guest! As with Adam, I ask Kino how long he has been driving for Uber and what his story was. (I wish I could communicate his accent, but it was clear he wasn’t from Dallas Texas.) He says, “I’m from Kenya. I have a Master’s degree in Health Administration but since it is from an English university it’s not recognized here in this country so I’m getting another Master’s here.” “So, do you like driving for Uber?” I ask. “I absolutely love it,” he says. “It is a most wonderful experience. I meet lots of people. I can work as much as I want. I can go to school and still earn a very good living. Just think, three years ago I was in Kenya and now I have my own business in the United States!…. Isn’t America wonderful!”

Adam got a one star review, Kino got a five star review. Adam worked for Uber…Kino worked for himself. Isn’t America wonderful! Kino reminded me how fortunate we are.

 

…the cost of YOUR vacancy

If you hire people, you need to read this.

If you ever look for a job, you need to read this.

I have discussed more than 23,000 job openings with employers since 1973. I have worked on search assignments from everything from an hourly maintenance person for a third shift manufacturing environment to presidents and CEOs. Most hiring authorities, from the third shift maintenance supervisor to members of the board, feel like they are very good at hiring (when they’re really not) and that it will only take 45 days to fill the lower to medium salary range positions and 90 to 120 days to fill the higher-level positions (the reality is more like 90 to 120 days on the lower to medium salaried positions and 150 to 180 days for the higher positions – totally unrealistic).

Even though every hiring authority starts out with good intentions, the hiring process drags on for way longer than everyone imagines it will. The major reason for this? People are afraid of making a mistake. In spite of what anyone says, most hiring authorities really don’t like hiring. Now very few managers will ever admit that they downright hate hiring and they’ll tell you that it’s “just part of the job,” but in their hearts they don’t like it. Why? Because when people make a poor hiring decision literally everybody knows it and sees it and that manager is being judged based on that poor decision.

Accounting managers are hired because they’re good at managing the accounting function. If they make an accounting mistake, few people may know it and, if it’s caught in time, it can be erased and rectified. An engineering manager is hired to manage the engineering function and the people that are in the department. If an engineering mistake is made even a reasonable amount of quality control can discover it and fix it. A sales manager who is hired to manage sales can even afford to lose a sale and make it up by making more sales.

But when one of these managers makes a bad hire, most everyone in the company can see it and, since it takes forever to get rid of most bad hires the manager is looked upon as a doofus because he or she hired one. And since the mistake of a bad hire can’t be quickly and easily rectified, the “mistake” walks around the company reminding everyone what a doofus the hiring authority was to hire them in the first place.

In all my years of recruiting I don’t think I’ve ever had a company looking to hire a manager and have, as part of its criteria for hiring, “documentable success in hiring excellent and productive subordinates.” And even if they did, it certainly is difficult to get an objective evaluation of a person’s ability to hire. A manager’s ability to recruit, hire and retain good employees should be one of the main considerations in hiring any manager. But it’s not. It is assumed that any manager with subordinates is good at hiring. But they’re not… most of the time.

So, hiring cycles drag on and on and on. What everyone thinks will take 30 to 45 days takes four to six months because people don’t like doing it and, in their hearts, they know they’re not very good at it. Ninety-nine percent of the hiring authorities in the United States have absolutely no idea the cost to their company that a vacancy has over even a short period of time. Numerous studies, especially one at Harvard University, find that the average value of a productive employee is roughly two and a half times their salary rate. For revenue producing employees, the cost of that vacancy is phenomenal.

On top of the fact that when a vacancy occurs, “It couldn’t have come at a worse time… I’m going to have to get people in the department to cover for this person until I find a replacement, and they are going to be pissed… I’m going to have to do the work this person was doing until I find a replacement.” There are a ton of other emotionally charged feelings… and they’re all bad. They perseverate, “We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… I can’t hire now, I have to do my job… I can’t hire now, I have to do my job… I can’t hire now I have to do my job” when the truth is that it is simply easier to postpone hiring and (much easier) to do the day-to-day job. So, hiring drags on.

I have provided a table that we give to our clients to help them realize, on top of everything else, what a vacant position actually cost them. It sobers them up real quickly. Highlight this address and go to:

                                                      http://bit.ly/1TtLK06

Put in the salary range of any vacancy you might have and see what it’s really costing you and your company. If you’re looking for a revenue producing candidate, like sales, the formula is even more dramatic.

So, if you’ve been looking for an assistant controller at a $90,000 salary for eight weeks, you have cost your company $34,615.00. If you’ve been looking for an accountant or production manager who left your company four weeks ago at a $50,000 salary, it has cost your company $14,423.00. And, as you know four weeks can go by in a heartbeat.

If you are a candidate, you can use this table to help you get a job. Last week, one of our sales candidates was in the final interview process with one of our clients. He was interviewing with a VP of sales, his boss and the vice president of finance. Each interview was a “one on one.” As he wrapped up each individual interview, he said, “I want to leave you one last thing,” and he handed each one of the interviewing authorities a small piece of paper with the figure of $93,307.00 written on it. As they looked at it, wondering what it was, he calmly stated, “The quota for this territory is $1.2 million and this is the amount you are losing every month by not having me in this job.” He then paused and asked, “When can I go to work?” Guess who got hired?

Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Most hiring managers are so close to the forest they miss the trees. The cost of a vacancy is real and can motivate managers to take action.