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.