Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes From The Job Search

www.NotesFromTheJobSearch.com is now up and running.  I just added a post that is a note from one of the grads who is now working at a terrific job.  Take a look.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Boring Resumes

I had a fascinating discussion with one of my clients last week. It helped me understand in a new way one of the pieces in the resume selection process. This particular client (he’s a “ C” level guy) had at one point used someone from The Ladder's to evaluate his resume. The feedback he got included a variety of things. The piece that caught my attention was a complaint about using the word “developed” on his resume, as in, “Developed and implemented yada yada yada”.  Apparently this particular reviewer has seen that word more than they want.  Actually, my guy reported that he had received a rant advocating the removal of this word from the English language.  What I got from this wasn't so much that the word doesn't belong on resumes, but that this reviewer had seen it a lot and it had started to bug him.

Remembering that the primary purpose of a resume is getting an interview and how very convoluted the path to that has become, it caused me to add another wrinkle.  Your resume can’t be boring.  Isn’t that just crazy?  How the heck are you supposed to do that?  How can you know that you’ve achieved it?  Of course you know that I wouldn’t be writing a blog post if I didn’t have some ideas. 
Part one is to find a variety of ways to describe your accomplishments and your behavior.  For example, if you are a writer, then you are (of course) paid to write, and the temptation to start most of your bullet points with the word “Wrote” will be substantial.  What this feedback tells us is that we need to find synonyms.  How about, “composed” or “created” or “developed” or “built”?  Each of these has a slightly different meaning than “wrote”, but each would be appropriate in its own situation.   Instead of, “Wrote help documentation for health care related web system.”  Use “Built and deployed help documentation for a health care related web system.”

Part two is building your own semi-formal “style guide” and starting with a rigid requirement to limit the use of any single word to two iterations.  This means when you find yourself using some specific word more than two times, you search out a synonym. 

Part three is recognizing that the highest percentage play in job search is networking, not internet applications.  If a friend passes your resume to a hiring influence, then that bored “screener” never sees it.  It also changes the focus of the whole hiring process from “How can we screen this person out?” to “How well can this person do the job?”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Three accountant positions available.

Steve and I are part Native American. The different Native American organizations we belong to send us help wanted notices periodically. Sealaska, a native organization, sent a notice that there are three staff accountant positions available. They give preference to natives, but do hire non-natives routinely. Go to www.sealaska.com career section to apply.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Notes From the Job Search

"The time has come the walrus said, to speak of many things"  As in the blog is moving and will be evolving into a real web page.  You can find us at NotesFromtheJobSearch.com

Friday, August 5, 2011


I’ve talked about StrengthsFinder and branding a couple of times before and how they interact and how they can help your career.  Recently, I’ve had a couple of my clients who demonstrated what can happen if you ignore them.

Person "A" is a tech writer whose number one strength is “Connectedness” and number two is “Communication.”  His last few gigs have been contracts with increasing levels of isolation, eventually working for a virtual company.  (You know the deal, a “virtual” company is one that has no office.)   In his personal life, this person is completely plugged into his community.  He volunteers with troubled kids, he’s a Veteran and volunteers at VA, etc, etc.  His personal life also works great.  His professional life has slowly been spiraling down with increasing problems and decreasing effectiveness and no explanations; just random non-directed anger.  When he took Strengths Finder, he looked at his strengths and for the first time started to understand what his real needs were.  He recognized that as much as he loves writing (and he does love writing), he needed more in order to be effective. 

Person “B” is an engineer.  He worked for the same company for 10 years coming out of college.  The first two were doing new projects and he was terrific.  Great reviews, bonuses, etc.  His whole team got re-orged into a test role and his performance slowly spiraled down (along with his morale) until he eventually went on a “performance improvement plan”, then finally he quit; with absolutely no plan and no idea how to get one.  When he took the Strengthsfinder test, his number one strength turned out to be “Harmony”.  So in this case we have someone who is all about peacemaking/peace keeping being required to tell people how badly they did. 

I find myself talking more and more about “brand” in my practice and these are a couple of examples of why.  For humans, our brand is that set of work behaviors we do just because we got up.  Not the stuff we try to do, not the stuff we learned.  It is the stuff we always do.  In the two examples above, Person A will be fabulous if he has the kind of contact he needs with the rest of the team.  His last boss got pretty abusive, but even that could well have worked if they had been in the same office.  Person B demonstrated his value doing new projects, and is terrific if he is in a place to build others up.  Both need to understand their brands and make sure that they put themselves in situations that allow them to exercise that “Brand.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Now that you got the job

Matt Youngquist just published a "Brag" post on his blog and he said some things that are so spot on.  Career Horizons does a terrific job and it's important to recognize that and thank them.  This post takes a minute to ask the newly employed clients of Career Horizons to say thank you and to use their search as a source of growth.  I am hereby forwarding these thoughts to the folks from NFJS that have recently gone to work as well.  The following thoughts are paraphrased from Matt's post:

·        Say "Thank you" to all of the people who have helped you through an amazingly difficult process and time.  Even if the individual was simply an encouraging informational interview.
·        Follow up on all of the opportunities you were pursuing and let them know you are off of the market.  Say "Thank you." for whatever level of consideration they have given you.  Think about the number of times some employer simply dropped off of the map part way through the process and remember not to be like that.
·        Create a "Lessons Learned" document, maybe just notes, but whatever it is, make it something you can refer to over time and use in the future.
·        Remember all of the bad behavior you experienced and make a very focused effort to not repeat any of it.  If you are a hiring manager, work hard to create a process that is respectful of both the candidates and your company and actually addresses the questions that matter to you, your team and your company.
·        Take a breath.  Take a few minutes to be thankful.  If you can take some time off, do so.

Most importantly, congratulate yourself and give the next person the same respect you were looking for when you were on the market.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Watching the various “social networking” sites as they compete with each other is fascinating.  I don’t understand some of it, but then I’m used to some level of confusion much of the time anyway….

Linkedin is now positioning itself as a place to put your best case resume so you will be miraculously found by the employer of your dreams (and live happily after).  
Facebook has added “BeKnown” as the place to do your business networking and where you can post your resume and then have the employer of your dreams discover you, so you can live happily ever after….

Does anyone actually know someone that got recruited off of Linkedin?  I’m a Career Coach and work with between 150 to 200 people a year and have yet to encounter someone who had that happen.  I know that it does occur, it’s just not all that common. 
The challenge is that all of us bring a lot to the table and it is very unusual for all of it to apply to a particular job we’re interested in.  I’m an old guy, so I’ve had a lot of time to wear different hats, including Teacher, Salesman, Developer, IT Manager and now Career Coach and that doesn’t begin to capture my volunteer work.  Turns out I’m not all that unusual in today’s market.  I was told when I was in college that I would likely have 3 distinct careers, my kids were told to expect 7!  So back to Linkedin, Which of those skill sets do I represent?  Which set of accomplishments?  How do I represent them?  How do I capture 50 years of work history in 400 words or less?  For that matter, how would I capture 4 years of college in 400 words or less? 

Linkedin works great for claiming a set of experiences that demonstrate your brand, your core strengths, those things you always do.   It works really well for connecting to your business friends.  It is truly amazing for allowing us to know what those friends are doing today.  I’m not so sure about how good it does as an advertisement. 
Facebook is fabulous at helping us know what our personal friends are doing.  It also has some semi-serious security issues and it includes a connection to that cousin/friend we all have who has a few “boundary issues” and has been known to post the pics from his last trip to BurningMan…..  My point here is that BeKnown becomes a very hard sell, just because Facebook is so successful at creating/documenting personal and family communities.  Job-Hunt.org had some additional thoughts and took the time to post them here.

An additional consideration is the amount of time spent on the computer.  We have all heard that “networking” is the key to your next job, whatever your profession is.  While Linkedin and Facebook (and Biznik and ….) are fabulous at documenting and tracking our network, the primary source of new connections is getting out and meeting people.  I have certainly heard and read about people getting jobs via connections they have made and only made electronically, it just is not been the case for people I have worked with.  I also have yet to meet someone who has told me about this as something that happened to them, so hoping that it will work seems like a very bad percentage play. 
There are tools that we know work: custom resumes, Linkedin connections, letting your friends know you’re looking, volunteering, researching companies and following what they’re doing, etc.  Focusing on these is a full time job, adding a tool with very uncertain value doesn’t look all that exciting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Networking revisited

We’ve all heard at least one rant about the importance of “networking” and had at least one friend complain about some “insider” getting a job the friend coveted.  What to make of that?

Matthew Powell shared a great post from Harvard Business School (HBS) on the NFtJS Linkedin group recently and when combined with the number of NFtJS participants going back to work, it got me thinking about this process again.   Both of these demonstrate that networking works.  The challenge is to make it work for us.  The Harvard article does about as good a job as we’re likely to encounter laying out the basic technology of networking and who to network with. 

It’s a business school, so they ignore personal values and ethics, but in our lives these are critical.  Attempting to establish a warm relationship with someone you don’t respect is just plain a bad idea.  The number of problems it generates are very difficult to overstate and normally will drive bad outcomes.  So don’t even attempt. 

They also miss what is the single most important element: How to start the conversation, how to initiate the connection. 
How do we (you) start these conversations?  Obviously, there is no single magic question or line that will always get something useful started, anymore than there is a single line that will initiate great relationships with potential life partners.  What I can suggest is an approach:
·         Make the call.  Waiting for someone else to create relationships that your livelihood is dependent on is risky at best and a disaster at worst.  Nothing happens until you pick up the phone and make the call. 
·         Prepare!  Learn what you can about the person, their role and what they are responsible for, then write out your questions ahead of time
·         Pay it forward.  A bit of a cliché, I know, but it works.  While starting a conversation with, “How can I help?” has gotten pretty tired, there are an infinite number of variations and the more research you do, the more relevant and focused your questions can be. Here’s some examples:
o   How long have you been in this position?
o   What successful events occurred that gained you (the promotion, getting hired)?
o   What do you like best about your job?
o   What are your biggest challenges?
o   Where do you think your job function is going in the future?
·         Practice.  There are people for whom this is natural, but that isn’t most of us.  For most of us, we need a lot of practice.
One of the primary points the HBS post makes is that when networking, not all people are created equal.  Through position or personality, some folks do count more than others.  Some people connect more naturally and more often.  In every case of networking for business, we want the biggest bang for our buck and that starts by recognizing that the CEO has more clout than the receptionist.  Don’t discount the receptionist; they can be great resources for understanding a company and great allies in your career, they just aren't the CEO.

One of my clients is an Urban Planner, who had relocated to Seattle from Colorado about three years ago.  When she got here, she didn’t know anyone.  She was following her husband.  She applied to every job she was qualified for and just got no traction.  Eventually she started working with me and we came up with a networking strategy designed to create the local professional relationships she needed, and she started implementing the plan.  She also connected with her network from Colorado, assuming it might pass something back into the Seattle area.  What happened was that her Colorado network did what networks normally do, what every network normally does--they found an opening with someone they knew well; then they passed a resume to this person along with a recommendation, etc. etc. in Colorado.  Guess what happened next…  She got the job.  She got the interview because she used to work with someone who used to work with someone who was hiring.  She got the job because she was qualified AND she had been vouched for by someone the hiring influence knew and trusted.

The point is that “networks” are personal and local and by far the most important part of your job search.  The more you work on them, the more they will work for you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Job Search as Competition

I was driving in my car and heard the Police song, “I can’t Stand Losing You”.  I’m sure you remember it, there is a section where Sting repeats the line, “I can’t stand losing” about 20 times, might be 30.  Then talks about he’s going to kill himself because he “lost” his girlfriend. 

It got me thinking of how obsessed we have become as a society with “winning” and “losing”.  Everything we do is described in those terms, we even have TV shows that are contests about who can “win” the heart of another.  (Somebody has to watch The Bachelor). 
I have also long understood job search in terms of creating relationships such that the job seeker can reasonably assess whether this is a good situation for them….  A process that echoes courting our future life partners waayyy too closely;  simultaneously, we tend to think of a job interview in terms of “winning” or “losing”, rather than identifying a good “fit”. 

Two stories come to mind:  1)  One of the folks in NFJS was devastated recently because she didn’t even get an interview at a company she had previously worked with and from whom she had glowing reviews.  2)  A very senior resource who was in an interview at Boeing where she had been given the full “Inquisition” style interview.  There were five interviewers, each had specific questions and for this interview at least, there was no interaction allowed.  Every time the candidate asked a question that was even vaguely job related she was rebuked.   Not only was the question not answered, but she was genuinely scolded.  At the end of the interview, they asked, “Do you have any questions?” then, when she started to ask about the job, she was once again reprimanded!  Wow!
In both of these cases, there was this normal but weird mentality that missed a couple of core parts of what creates a good job:  The attraction has to be mutual and it’s not a contest.  Make no mistake, I’m as likely to compete as anyone.  I see something that looks like a fit on paper and I feel like a failure if I don’t get that job!  Never mind that the job description isn’t (or is) related to the actual job; I read 2 paragraphs on Craig’s List and I now “know” that this is “the” job for me!  In the cold light of day it seems pretty silly, kind of like knowing that your “soul mate” is someone you watched as they walked by the coffee shop you were sitting in.   

In his classic book, What Color is Your Parachute, Richard Bolles states that there are five questions that count for the employer and five questions that count for the employee.  Interestingly, only one question relates to skills and both the employer and the employee have the same five questions. 
Thinking about the two people mentioned earlier, the first person assumed the courtship was over because she had worked with them previously.  The second one has absolutely no idea if she would be successful in this Boeing role – actually, Boeing doesn’t either, no matter how proud of their system they might be.  At the end of their interview, there process will allow them to assess is the candidates technical skill set.  Of the five questions, it is the second and it is an exceptionally poor predictor of success. 

The point is that job search isn’t about winning and losing.  It’s about creating sustainable relationships based on several personal attributes as well as job skills.  Finding a good job is about understanding and evaluating those.  For both sides. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Social Networking Tools

I have to admit I personally have a mixed relationship with these tools.  I am a blogger, have an active presence on Linkedin, at least a minimum presence on Facebook and have had a twitter account for a few years, but haven’t created my own web page, and while I set up a twitter account 3 years ago, I doubt that I’ve posted a dozen tweets.  My Facebook is family facing, not business.  Well, you get the idea I think.  One of the participants in NFJS is a Social Media Coach/Mentor (Cheryl Richmond) and just an incredible resource and talent.  She is starting to get me focused on this and provided some basic guidelines that make a lot of sense.
Let’s start with an inventory:
      Linkedin – Must have for a job seeker, this is the key location for defining your “Brand”.  It is a hub for business contacts and activities built around that brand.
      Facebook – Might be very important for a job seeker about half a step down from Linkedin.  Primarily set up to connect people with each other on a personal level.  With that in mind, it still needs to reflect your brand.  Can be a huge time suck and there are privacy and security issues.
      Twitter – Optional.  It is an in-real-timecommunications tool that can extend your network while making it much more responsive.  It can also be an amazing time suck.
      Blog – Optional.  Works great if you have ideas that are relevant to your brand, but can kill you if you drift.
      Biznik – Useful if you are an independent contractor looking at getting some level of b2b stuff going.
       “MyPersonalDomain”  Whatever you choose this to be, from a web page to a blog to some kind of store.
      Geolocation sites like Foursquare or Gowalla:  These provide physical location information with the goal of connecting people in a location.  There are specific situations where these can be useful, but they come with additional cautions
      Etc.  – there are a huge number of other tools that fall under this category from MySpace to Picasa to Yelp to Meetup.    Any one of these can provide value and that value will vary on an almost infinite array of things.  The challenge with some of these (think MySpace) is that you create a permanent presence with them whether you intend it or not.  That Frat Party you went to in the 90s and that you friends posted on MySpace?  It’s still out there.

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of stuff, but even if I knew what they all were, as of May 2011, this is a great list to start with.
There are also some principles that need to be implemented across your internet profile:
      As much as possible, create one consistent brand.  So use the same picture for every profile you own, represent yourself as the same person with the same skills in every profile.
      Be prudent.  If you are looking for a job as the Pastor of a church, work as hard as you can to eliminate the pictures of you at the Atheist Convention.
      Be safe, or at least try.  Control your permissions on all of these tools, organize your contacts/friends into relevant groups.  The Rugby Team and the Rose Garden Club will probably not understand each other or how you could belong to both, so keep them separate.
      Set up your public profile to reinforce itself from every window.  If you claim to be a “Team Builder” in Linkedin, then your Facebook should feature people beyond yourself.

In very general terms each has a primary purpose (in the context of job search), so what are they?
      Linkedin is central.  Define your brand here, get a good picture that you recognize, fill out a complete profile.  Focus of your contacts is business connections, but the line is not rigid.
      Facebook, this is almost as important, but the focus is more towards family and friends.  Use the same picture as Linkedin and consider your brand as you build out your network and fill out your profile.  Be respectful of your contacts when playing the various games.  Don’t spam; accidentally or on purpose!
      Twitter, use the same consideration when creating your profile, but then remember that this is a real time communication tool.  While Linkedin and Facebook are fundamentally static, there is nothing static about Twitter.  This provides extraordinary resources for researching companies, opportunities and people in real time. 
A key to understanding these resources is understanding that we really have only one network, and while we categorize it for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, there is far more overlap than separation, so we need to treat it with that in mind.  The tools we have today for the organizing our network and mining information about it are truly amazing.  So far beyond what we’ve ever had, but the central fact remains that “Network” is still just a fancy word describing our circle of friends. 

By the way, Consumer Reports published a terrific article on how to effectively stay safe in their June 2011 issue.  It should be read by pretty much everyone that spends time online.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Value Proposition Part 2

At this point, you have written out your value proposition, outlined a “target” market or company profile and you have identified specific companies you are interested in. I’m assuming your list has more than 10 entries when you start. Remember that while you will need something like a hundred to guarantee success, you can start with as few as one.
Your next step is to choose one to start with. Don’t over think your choice, you have done your primary screening, so any one of them will work. In order to make this effective, your research really starts now. Let’s assume you got your info from D&B (Dunn & Bradstreet), it will probably include the name of one contact at least, research the individual, then research the company.
  • On the company side try to create a mini “org chart”.
  • Who is the CEO, CTO, CFO, COO, etc? How long have they been at the company?
  • What has been the company’s history?
  • Is the company profitable?
  • How many locations?
  • Where would you fit?
  • What does the company do?
  • Everything else you can think of.
Your goal is to identify an individual that has hiring authority, budget authority and is likely to benefit from the services you provide. When in doubt, move up. If you are technical project manager and you can’t find an identified CTO, look for the COO. If they don’t exist, then it’s the CEO.

Dig out as much info as possible on each. Your initial letter will be stock, but when you call, you will need to know who to ask for and as much as possible about them and their company.

When you call, you will be asking for an appointment, but you need to be prepared for anything. Write out your questions and have them in front of you. Script your open, literally. Write it out word for word and read it when you call. Rehearse it before hand so it doesn’t sound like you’re reading it, but read it.

Your expectations need to be appropriate for the process as well. Unfortunately, most of the time, you’ll get some variation of “don’t call me, I’ll call you.” If they send you to HR, it’s the same thing. You may want to follow up with HR, but that will be the exception. Your goal is having a personal conversation with someone with both budget and hiring authority, anything else and move to the next one.

Part of the reason for starting with 10 or so companies is because of how often “No” will be your outcome and you’ll need to have that next one to focus on.

What will happen at this point is you will genuinely be in a numbers game. If you can do this 100 times, then you will get at least one offer. You could get as many as 10. You should get 30 to 40 interviews.

A possible script might go:
Hi Bob, my name is Steve Paul, I sent you a note a week ago introducing myself. I build extremely resilient, high performance IT teams. The reason for my call is to follow up on the letter and ask you if there is a time we could talk about how I might be able to help. Is now a good time or should we set an appointment for later?”
The reason for having your questions written out now is that the success of the interview will be directly related to the quality of your questions and if “Bob” says, “Actually I do have a couple minutes, what are you thinking?” you need to be able to ask a good question. Something that relates to your value prop. In the example above, I would start asking about how complicated there IT needs are. I would start by citing something I had found through my research, then turn it into a question. “I see you have 13 offices in Western Washington, how many IT people does it currently take to support them?   How effective do you think the team is?"

The point is to be ready. Really ready. This is a way to create opportunity, and when that opportunity is developed, turning it into something that you can grow with over time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Value Proposition revisited

What is the hard part of implementing a “value proposition” approach to job search? 
Really, there are two:  Distilling your skill set to a single succinct sentence and identifying companies to target. 

The one sentence version of your elevator pitch is a terrific exercise under every set of circumstances.  It means you are working through your history with discipline and thought and sorting out the one, two or three highest value skills you have.  It allows, heck, it requires you to state publicly that you can do “xxxx” and that companies will benefit, and “yyyy” is how they will benefit.  This is so very powerful.  Examples:
·         I’ve had the opportunity to transform the market presence of 2 companies I have worked for, increasing their size by more than 30% and profitability by more than 7%
·         I have been able to re-invent a corporate electronic infrastructure, delivering more than 99% uptime at the desktop across 20 locations
·         As a writer whose specialty is making technology accessible and understandable, I’ve been able to deliver documentation that consistently reduces calls to help desks and increases customer satisfaction.
·         As a career coach I help people identify the job of their dreams, then achieve it.
In essence, we can all make a statement similar to the ones above.  Most of us will also talk ourselves out of it.  Honestly, there are some very powerful requirements to it.  Emotionally, we are making a very public bet on our skills and we are consciously committing to this bet.

After we state this value proposition, we will identify, first the kind of company that can benefit from these services and then, the specific companies. 
How do we do that?  There are tool requirements, and there is the requirement of defining who uses your particular skill set.

Technically, we need access to search tools including Google/Bing, but going beyond that.  In King County, Washington, our County Library systems provide free access to some of the very best tools available for researching businesses; Dunn & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database, ReferenceUSA, Value Line, etc.  I posted a tutorial on how to use D&B last August that can lead you through using this one.  The others aren’t much different.  Next writing out criteria to be used is required.  How big?  What industry?  Headquarters?  How many branches?  What kind of ownership?  Do you know the name of one such company? 
Plugging your answers into the search tools provided by these databases is pretty straight forward and will net you some number of possibilities.  Unfortunately, it is probably just the first step in your process.  Remember the goal is between 50 and 100 companies to approach.  What you’ll get from your search is probably too high or too low.  The name of 1 company is a start, but we all remember the cliché about putting all of our eggs in one basket, so it is only a start.  Who does it compete with?  Who does it sell to?  What is it’s “SIC Code”?

Job search is a sales process.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you have probably noticed that assumption woven throughout.  Sales can be “inside” or “outside”.  “Inside” is a description of sales where the salesperson waits for a customer to come in.  Think retail;  Nordstrom’s or Costco.  “Outside” means the salesperson goes out and finds customers; Boeing, IBM, etc. 
In job search, applying for jobs that are advertised is the equivalent of “inside” sales.  For those who have been banging their heads against this particular wall, they know in personal detail how effective it is.  The process being described here takes control of the process and allows the job seeker to be in charge of it.  It’s “outside” sales.  Do a search on “value proposition” and you will see all sorts of posts about how it is core to a business’s chance of success, if you want to understand it in terms of job search, then you are going to need to add “job search” to your search because the relevant web sites will be too buried. 

The business ones are very instructive however.  The process described and the values identified are completely parallel to what goes on in job search and will only help you as you start down this path.
Remember to expect this to be a time consuming process.  Once you have the name of your first company, then your first 3, 10, etc. you have only started.  I’ll cover more of this process in my next post.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Had a cautionary tale passed back to us in one of the groups.  I’m going to eliminate names, but you’ll get the idea. 

First, let’s be honest about the situation of someone who’s unemployed.  I’m pretty disciplined about avoiding talking about how bad things can be, but we all know it can be very very scary.  That fear is the lever scam artists use.   This is the second real scam I’ve seen in the last couple of years and they have some stuff in common:

·         The hook for both is money fears.
   o   The first one promised to “reduce your debt and your payments”
   o   The second one promised “easy money”
·         Both offered significant (bogus) testimonials

In one case, it was all about refinancing your house and using that as collateral.  When we investigated, what we found were lots of complaints, people losing their homes and no one getting any money from the scam except the artist.  My guess is that this is even illegal, but given how fast the perpetrators move, I doubt anyone is getting their money back and I doubt anyone has gone to jail.

The other case promises to make you a “professional model” and that you will be paid “thousands” within xxx amount of time.  This one is legal, after all they really will take your picture.

Both require you pay them first.  Guess what happens next…. 


At least nothing that will benefit you in any way shape or form.
Without belaboring the point, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it is.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lessons Learned from Charlie Sheen

First, I have to say thank you to Christopher Poreda for a great post by the same name.  I’ll also steal his lessons:

"1) Be an original. Copies can be replicated and as such are cheaper the more you make.

"2) Be honest, regardless of the ramifications. You'll sleep better and be more respected.

"3) Having the best product will always supersede having the best service. Think Soup Nazi!

"4) The squeaky wheel gets the grease. These sayings were made up for a reason.

"5) Any press is good press. See #4

"6) Focus on "Winning".  It appears that CBS is courting Charlie to bring him back." 

Make no mistake, Charlie has some issues as well, but he does have these six things right.  When thinking about job search, let’s see how they apply.

“Be an original”  Your combination of strengths and skills and talents are unique.  If someone hires you for these, you have an amazingly good chance of success and for that success to be ongoing.  If you are trying to copy someone or be the person you imagine some person or company wants,  sooner or later, you’ll falter.  It won’t be pretty.

“Be honest”  The ability to deliver what you promise is very closely related to how honest you are.  If you tell people honestly what you have done and what can do, doing it again will be easy; heck, exceeding expectations will be easy.

“Having the best product will always supersede the having the best service”  See item 1.  If you are the best “you” there simply isn’t any competition.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.  You won’t get a job if no one knows you’re looking.  Your friends, neighbors etc. need to know you're looking.  When you identify something you want, you need to make absolutely certain the hiring influence knows who you are and that you want this job and you will be the best answer.

“Any press is good press”  All is fair in love, war and job search!

“Focus on winning”  When you find a job you want, focus, focus, focus. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Changes and Growth

If you read this at all regularly, you know that the heart of this blog is the people who come to the three groups known as Notes from the Job Search (NFJS). As they have become successful, they have continually shared their success with friends, which has led to very steady growth for NFJS.  Starting with one group 2 years ago, we’ve added two more along with the many private clients I have had the privilege to help.

Our Bellevue Group started just a year ago with approximately 6 people and is now normally over 18. The consequence is that we have outgrown Jitters Coffee House and starting March 3rd, we’re moving. The new location will be Panera Bread in Redmond. 17262 Redmond Way. We will also be changing times from 1:00 to 1:30!

What we’re working on won’t change, but where we work on it will, it’s going to be great!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Salary Negotiations

Salary Negotiations.  In response to some questions and answers on Linkedin Career Horizon’s blog has posted a couple of very good entries on salary negotiations and while I agree with much of what they are saying, In particular, the research being suggested is required. That said, I guess I have at least a different spin.

Job search is sales. It is. Most of us dislike this, we dislike thinking of ourselves as a product and we dislike the idea that we need to approach this like a salesperson. Still, there is just so much that we can and frequently need to learn from the sales process and price/salary negotiations is one of the critical areas for us to look at. Using “car buying” as a model (it’s something we all do and we all negotiate) let’s break the process down.

  • When we walk into a dealership, one of the first things we do is look at the sticker price on the windows of the various cars in the show room. If there isn't a sticker on the window, then we will most likely saunter back out the door and not come back.  When HR asks us what our salary requirements are, they are looking for “window stickers”. If they can’t afford you they want to know early, just like you do when you shop for a car. If we don't answer, if we don't show them the sticker price, then we can expect them to "saunter back out the door and not come back."  If what you can afford is $30,000, and you go to a BMW dealership, you find yourself in the “Used” lot very quickly. Either that or you head for Toyota dealership. The employer has the same problem. They have a budget. You need to give them enough of an answer so they can know that you are both on the same page.
  • Establishing a price is based on “market value”. There are a variety of tools for you to use to investigate this, I recommend Payscale.com, but it’s one of many. These will give you a reasonable understanding of what the market for your job title/skill set is and where you should be on price.
  • Develop an understanding of your requirements as well. Remember it’s not the same as what you are asking for. Go over your budget and figure out what you need to spend every month. This allows you to understand what you can live with and sometimes a job has non-financial benefits that justify the investment, so know what you need, separately from you used to make and what you hope to make. Thinking of the car buying analogy, it’s what the dealer pays: The cost of the vehicle plus the commission of the salesperson plus the cost of the building plus the cost of financing the car while it’s waiting to be sold. So what are all of your costs? 
  • Review real offers the way a car salesman reviews your offer.
    • Is the offer for your asking price?  If you were the car salesperson you would go get a contract, so what’s the equivelant?  Say, “Thank you, when do I start?”
    • Is it below that? Now you need to think through this carefully. What is your real need? Where are you in the range you’ve researched? Is it a respectful offer? If you are the car salesperson you would be evaluating if it was close enough to accept, assuming the buyer wasn’t going to budge.
    • Understand that their offer has roughly the same force as your first offer for that new car. The car salesperson would now ask something like, “If I say ‘Yes’, will you sign right now?”
    • If you are at 75k and they offer 50k, then try to understand why the two of you are so far apart and think about a counter-offer. The car guy would be grimacing and asking why your offer was so low and thinking about what he could live with. In this case, his likely minimum is 65k, so he would need to understand why you made an offer that far below the sticker. As that discussion occurred, he would be going through an inventory of actual costs to see if there was some way for him to be open to a number closer to yours.
    • Is there a benefit that offsets some of the differential? Do they pay a bonus? Do they provide stock? Will they give you extra vacation?
Negotiating your salary requirements respectfully is important. The company is hiring you because they think you can solve a problem, not because you are cheap. Once they make an offer, then it is appropriate to assume that you are perceived as the best available solution, not the cheapest attempt at a solution.

Monday, January 24, 2011


One of the aspects of job search that I occasionally talk about is resilience:  The ability to continue in the face of very significant resistance.  One of our newer members, Curt Jacobson, has struggled with this as well and shared the story of one of the tools he has and is using to deal with it.  Here's Curt's story:

"An open letter to those of us “in transition”:

"One of the challenges those of “in transition” are confronted with is the psychological, emotional impact of being unemployed. In addition to the financial hardship one has to endure, one’s self-esteem is severely challenged during this period. You apply for jobs, many jobs, that you are more than qualified; yet you get no response. As times progresses, the savings and retirement funds that you so diligently built over the years dwindle and the bills continue to grow. You are jeopardizing your future to live in the present. Inevitability you get down and despair settles in your psyche. You are dancing with the demons of despair.

"Society, however, tells us that we are to put on a happy face and to project a positive image. If, and when, you get an interview you have to be positive, up-beat, and show enthusiasm for the company and the position. This is a challenge though, because you know from experience that the competition is keen and you may not get the job. You do not want to get your hopes up too high just to have them thrashed when you do not get the call back. Been there, done that. Too many times.
"So how to get out of this downward cycle of doom? Working out, staying active definitely helps. One thing that I did last year that really helped me was I did my first triathlon. I successfully completed my tri with the assistance, coaching of Team In Training (TNT). Awesome organization with an honorable objective – to help those afflicted with LLS (Leukemia & Lymphoma).
"The team I trained with raised over $142K to support LLS. The participants were all shapes and sizes and the age range was from 20 to 65. A friend of mine could not even swim before she started but successfully swam a ½ mile during the tri. It can be done!
"The attached provides details of an invitational meeting that TNT will be hosting. I plan to attend and hope to see others there. Make a difference – help those in need, get in great shape, and defeat the demons of despair.


"Curt Jacobson"

On the email, Curt attached a specific invite, unfortunately, attachments don't work in Blogger, so I can't include that, but you can reach out to Curt through me and he really would love to have you join him, or check here for the Team-in-Training web page to signup on your own.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


For all of the cautions I throw out regarding internet use and getting lost in it etc. it brings some amazing resources into our homes/offices. Here are two that are new to me and that I’m really appreciating. I wish I could tell you that my amazing incisive research identified them, but in truth, it is the companies themselves and the people working there that brought these to my attention.

ActiveWords and Gist are a couple of excellent tools. ActiveWords will grow a lot more slowly than Gist, but I’m guessing it will continue to grow for a longer time. What it does is allow for the development of shortcuts. Lots of them. Do you have a blog? Working in Word and want to jump? Type in your shortcut name and – boom, you’re there. What about opening a new Word doc? Same thing. Email? Same. Do you have a bunch of stock language you use? Shortcut! This is a developers fantasy! There are programs that are as much as 50% stock code, well this eliminates the need for even something as uncomplicated as cut and paste. NFJS strongly recommends a custom resume for every opportunity, sure, but with this your template is brought up ready for modification in a few simple strokes on your keyboard. Beyond the product, I have to say the people are exceptional. They tracked me down and have put on a special training for NFJS, simply so they can help! Pretty cool.

Gist is the other part of this: One of the themes in my work with people is “Preparation”. No matter what part of the job search you are in and no matter what kind of job you want, your opportunity for success goes up in direct proportion to the amount of preparation you put in. Gist is an email plug-in and it makes that easier. Actually, quite a bit easier and it provides info that is very difficult to gather in one place. It works with Outlook or Gmail and provides an ongoing updates from a variety of sources as you communicate with you connections. It’s a “dashboard” sort of review. Covers blogs, twitter, facebook, Linkedin as well as several other tools.

The value to a job hunter is substantial. When we network and as we network, we build what can become a fairly substantial group of folks we’re connected to… Heck, if we simply connect to all of our friends it quickly becomes a fairly big number. Before I started Notes From the Job Search, before I joined Linkedin, before I went to my first “networking event, I had over 500 names on my email list! Of course, not all of those people are friends, heck I’ll bet there are 100 that I couldn’t put a face to if my life depended on it, but there are more than 200 who I do think of as friends or at the very least warm acquaintances. Do I know what those folks are doing? Heck no! Have I spoken with them in the last month? 6 months? Year? What Gist does is give a summary of the public profile of the people you are connected to.

So here are two products that are very cool and can have substantial value: ActiveWords and Gist.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caveat Emptor

Seize the Day. Amazing how important that is and how often we don’t. Fundamentally, job search is about researching the world around us until we find a problem we can help with.  At every step of this process, caveat emptor applies. When we are introduced to someone, do we hide or do we ask them about themselves and their work? When we find that this is someone we could genuinely connect with, do we meet once and then bail? Or do we actively find ways to increase the connection? When a connection offers a new opportunity or an introduction, what do we do? Follow up?

When we hear about an opportunity, do we get intimidated by a title, or dig in to find out if we can actually help?

So Caveat Emptor. Seize the day. If there is an opportunity, follow up, find out. Trust yourself to evaluate honestly whether this is something you can help with.