Category Archives: social media

Career changers: 30 minute daily strategy

Can you afford not to?

For anyone embarking on a job search related to career change and developing what is now called a “personal brand” for the first time, I outline the steps and options involved using social networking. As I do so, I am always aware of two things. Faces turning ashen with panic and then groaning, as clients,  whether individually or in groups, mentally try to calculate how much time this process is going to take out of their already busy day. There is a reason it’s called net “working” (not net “vacationing”).  It is indeed a lot of work, it does take time and much of it is doing stuff people have never heard of before  (and wouldn’t choose to do if they had!) .

Authenticity
Today,  job search is personal, flexible and strategic. Sadly there is no template or blue print which can be reproduced, although guidelines can be given.  What works for one individual, will not work or sound authentic for another. The whole point of it is also to be unique and stand out, not to be a clone of your neighbour.  The learning process is  intuitive,  as we move away from the old style rigid approach. This does indeed makes life far harder for any job seeker today and it is time-consuming. However,  authenticity is key,   which is why we have to run, stroll or even crawl,  the hard yards for ourselves.

Strategic alliances
As recessionary thinking starts to hit us again after a very brief interlude of optimism,  the job market looks set to shrink.  Economic downturns touch even the brightest and the best. It’s imperative that developing a  personal brand  and raising visibility becomes a daily part of all job seekers’ routines –  before there is a crisis.  Social networking is a great way to supplement and enhance actual networking,  although ( and I stress)  not a substitute for it.

Simple basics
—Select a primary platform  – for most people this should be a professional network   (e.g. LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing)  to showcase career success stories and background. The largest English language one is LinkedIn for and anyone seeking a career in an international arena,  I would always advise a profile placed on this platform. — As a minimum I would suggest the following activity:

  • Send out 1 update daily to develop your reputation. If you have a blog so much the better,  otherwise any nugget of information that could be interesting taken from the press or other media related to your new function/sector. Twitter is a good source.
  • Post 1 comment in a LinkedIn group related to your target career.
  • Indentify and connect with 5- 10 new connections in your target sector – preferably ones you hope to meet in person.
  • Research companies in your target sector.

Connect with other platforms  – extend your reach via Twitter and Facebook which are becoming fast growing global job boards as the Like, Share and Tweet functions become a quick way to circulate job information. Employers are also strengthening their Employer brand on these platforms and offer increasing opportunities to inform and connect with job seekers. Trend spotters are suggesting that these 2 platforms will change the job search  landscape in 2012.   Although their figures are US-based, Europe is  usually only a few steps behind. Get ahead of the game. Even a British spy agency is seeking code-crackers via Twitter and Facebook.

  • Post content via Twitter.
  • Share content from others ( RT).
  • Comment on or “Like ” a blog or LinkedIn update.
  • Post an update or a note on Facebook.
  • Locate followers and friends that might be helpful to you.
  • Pay it forward  – share any new updates with your peers or other job seekers in your network.
  • Partially automate when you are busy. Bufferapp hits Twitter and Facebook. I would advise not to over do it  – engagement is key.
  • Filter out the white noise of LinkedIn updates using LinkedIn signal 

—One of the advantages of Social Networking is that it’s self scheduling  – so any of this can be fitted  around other activities and in a piece meal fashion. It’s a question of carving out 10 minutes of time, 3 times a day which may make a difference. Yes, initially it might take longer, but as skills are honed and knowledge acquired,  it can be whittled down to become  rapid fire productivity. Eventually you will think in terms of the time this is saving you.

 The real question is perhaps not if can you afford the time,  but can you afford the risk of not allocating those key minutes, in the current economic climate? If you don’t take time to plan now,  you may find you have  more leisure than you planned for  to live with the consequences.

I “link” therefore I exist! Modern connectivity

Drowning in the Google pool and sinking into oblivion

 Modern connectivity There was a time probably no more than 5 years ago, when I could do my job very effectively by going into my contact data base and simply picking up the phone. Those days are gone. In 2008, as world markets crashed taking many global businesses with them, millions lost their jobs and disappeared into the ether of unemployment. If, and when they resurfaced they were difficult to reach. The foundations of the way most of us did business crumbled beneath us, as we tried to find new ways to stay connected.

At the same time we saw a dramatic upturn in the use of social media, which heralded a new era for business generally and became especially valuable in the executive search and hiring process. Early adopters got a head start. Now it is less ” I think therefore I exist” but more ” I link therefore I exist”. We are in an age of super connectivity.

Google ranking
Many column inches have been written about online connections. The quality vs quantity discussion rages unabated and I’m not even going to get into that one. My simple point is that unless you are a high-ranking executive in publically registered company, or some sort of super star, with acres of media coverage to your name, and land a first page Google ranking (for positive reasons!), an online professional profile or other virtual presence, which benefits you professionally, is a must. For the average, mere job seeking mortal, the failure to have an online professional identity, while possibly not total career hari kari, will be tantamount to jumping into the Google pool with lead weights on your ankles. You will simply sink into oblivion.

What  to do?

  • Get going! Create an online professional presence:  this enables you to be found  not just by search specialists and hiring managers but anyone who wishes to locate you or your professional expertise. This will vary from one country to another. The strongest global English-speaking platform is LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Viadeo or Xing also carry traction in different geographic areas.  The 3 demographics most reluctant to do this in my experience are entry-level, women and Boomers. This one simple process shows you care and are switched on!
  • Complete the profile fully and strategically: using  strong key search words. Generally I find the people who get most frustrated (and whinge the loudest) with a tendency to blame other external factors,  are the ones who have the weakest profiles and fewest connections.
  • Connect and engage strategically: build up your professional network, establish relationships,  generate credibility in your industry or sector. Set up an online trail of links to you! You can’t tap into your network unless you have one. Reluctant categories in my experience are: entry-level and women
  • Manage your reputation: leverage social media to cement the professional you. Use key words in your other online profiles and even a link to your online CV or LinkedIn profile.   Entry level, women and Boomers are the equally reluctant to do this. Social media is no longer just social, but has a professional component too. That’s why it’s called Personal Branding. Change your privacy settings if this really bothers you.
  • Don’t neglect other personal  networks: there is tendency with social media pundits to drink their own Kool Aid and believe their own hype, that these platforms are the “one- stop- shop” solution. No matter what, you have to get out from behind the computer and network personally! An online professional presence is only one tool in a much bigger job search tool kit. Category most reluctant to do this – women and entry-level.

As we teeter yet again on the brink of a possible financial services meltdown, with Greece clinging to the edge of the Acropolis by its fingernails, those without professional online “links” will almost certainly be caught at a disadvantage. There is even in my anecdotal experience, an emerging pattern of which demographics are constantly at risk.

Regrettably we have to do more than “think” to exist today. We have to “link“.

Twitter and Me – An Anniversary

Twitter

Annual review – Permit me an indulgent post!
It’s over a year since I signed up on Twitter.  Some of you may remember what a hopeless and reluctant Twitter debutante I was in my early days.  I  just didn’t get it  – at all.  Imagine I put my tweets through  spell check !   My  struggling process is well documented in my post Cynic to Convert in 10 weeks. I was an almost  total disaster and suspect that  in some areas I’m not much improved.

Twitter  now has a place  in my career transition coaching programme for job seekers and in most cases actually encounters huge resistance. A look of total blankness crosses coachees  faces and  truthfully, very few really seriously engage.  The reasons they don’t see the potential are clear. They are where I was!

Working it out
 Initially, I observed from the sidelines and saw what other people  recommended and what they did. Then very slowly I found what worked for me.   Despite all the bumpf that is written I’m still not that strategic.  Many of the big playing , hard hitters tend not to engage and that’s what I enjoy. So  although they might have a gazillion followers  and a  systematic, automatic information feed,   that is very reminiscent  of those  ” too kool for skool”  high school cliques.  If you’re not interested ,  somewhat surprisingly that actually doesn’t interest me   …..except for CNN, the Economist and President Obama,  of course.

I eventually learned to let some of the more extreme positions and outrageous views slide by without even the slightest raising  of a pulse or eyebrow. Particularly in my field in 2009 during  the worst global  recession  in recent times,  it seemed that every man, woman and dog  had a view to share on how to write a CV or get a job. Some of it was excellent,  but  some was so far off the mark to be undistinguishable from Pythonesque fantasy. Now I no longer care. If they want to advise job seekers to write a 4 page CV…  in pink,   telling everyone what their career objectives are –  go right ahead,  My ” Bothered in Brussels ” days are over. 

Eventually, I began to get the hang of it, so that it is now part of the fabric of my daily life.  I read about people trying to detox.  Are they kidding ?  Really there is no 12 step programme that would interest me.

Benefits
So what are the benefits for me? I’m not going to name names for fear of leaving someone out. You  all know who you are!  Well you should!

  •  Global connections : I have connected with people  globally whose paths  I would never have crossed   – ever , in the normal course of my daily life  – professional or personal. Their stories, skills, areas of expertise , energy and willingness to share have been humbling and informative.
  •  Community : These on-line connections  have become actual connections and in a strange way, perhaps as early adopters/adapters I find they understand  more about what I do ,  than my immediate circle  of  friends and family. I have a whole new range of mentors, sounding boards, muses,  professional contacts and people who are just fun to be around.
  • Embracing change: Early adapters don’t care about taking risks, they don’t need to understand everything they do or fully compute the consequences. They just do it. They write blogs, produce You Tube videos,  create radio shows,  host webinars. The energy is fantastic. Do people off Twitter do this? Of course , I’m sure they do – but I don’t know them.
  • Information:  I stand  by what I originally said  that it’s the sharing of distilled information that is hugely beneficial. I don’t want to be too effusive about the time they save me in case they send me a bill. How do I know they’re picking out the right stuff? I just do!   
  • Intellectual stimulation:  there is something very stimulating about being part of  group of people who feel comfortable  with what they don’t know and are not intimdiated by it. It is a black hole learning experience and  not only are we all in it – but we all enjoy it.  
  • It’s democratic: there are no barriers to entry and I might exchange  communication with world renown biz gurus, philosophers, philanthropists,  successful authors, olympic athletes, stay at home Mums, coaches, recruiters , surfer dudes,  antiopodean gardeners or teenage insomniacs –  plus any number of categories I haven’t mentioned.   
  • Content counts: what is good is recognised and shared. Credit is given where it’s due. Plagiarism is outlawed.
  • There is a code of conduct:  poor behaviour is unacceptable and dealt with pretty summarily.  
  • The speed: of the  passage of information is phenomenal. I am frequently asked how I know about something so quickly or early and it quite often via Twitter. It is a powerful  global communication tool not to be under estimated. News channels and their anchor people now refer regularly to their Twitter accounts.  
  • It is affirmative:  feedback is always constructive and positive contributions are generously endorsed.
  • Business  – of course. Everyone’s visibility is raised.

The future?

So where will it all lead to? I’m not sure if  it’s a coincidence that the massive increase in the popularity of Twitter ( which has now stabilised)  occurred during a major recession. Did people have more time? Did they feel the need to try something new?   Did they feel the need to reach out? The answer is I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see as economic activities level out whether  people will engage to the same extent and what the next 12 months hold! Will I still have to defend my Twitter presence at dinner parties in  2011?

Only one way to find out!  See you next year!

But what about you?

Job search and “Gen Y should I?”

studentsBecause…

As a parent of a Millennial and a search specialist with experience running graduate recruitment programmes,  as well as being a coach who has written about some entry-level issues, I am often  approached  by young people  to support them in their job search.

A lot of column inches are dedicated to descriptions of  the similarities in some attitudes  between Baby Boomers and their Gen Y offspring. In the matter of  job search  I am finding this to be true.  Astonishingly, but for both similar and different reasons, entry-level job seekers are just as closed to new  job seeking methodologies as their 50 – something parents.

Tech savvy
Gen Y cut their teeth on modern technology.  If my kids and their friends are a good yardstick, their cell phones will possibly need to be surgically removed  from their bodies at some point in their lives.  They  barely walk 10 paces without an iPod.  Their every waking moment is documented on Facebook and they communicate and disseminate information  with their peers at a speed that is unfathomable to us older types.

An article in the Economist  The net generation unplugged  suggests  that  for the generation of Digital Natives “Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics”

Where is  “Gen Y not”?
So if this is true,  why do they so obviously struggle with applying the  technologies that make up the very fabric of their lives to look for a job?

Clive Shepherd  makes the point in his post  “Is the net generation really unique ?”   that although Gen Y are familiar  with social and digital media   ”  ..that doesn’t mean they understand – or care – about their power and significance; and just because they use these technologies to interact with their peers, doesn’t mean they’ll expect – or desire – to do the same at work”.

This has been exactly my experience. Although this generation has the skills to tap into all the information of job search available  on-line  for entry-level candidates, they are  either choosing not to access it, or if they do, choosing not to implement  the recommended strategies.

I contacted someone who  is close to the pain of the unemployed graduate,  Alex Try at Interns Anonymous. I can’t say  I’ve ever heard anyone using social media for job finding. Nobody. I wouldn’t think it would be an issue of resistance… more that it is doesn’t even come into consideration. As an entry-level job seeker myself – the idea of using Twitter and Facebook is a bit ridiculous. I can’t even imagine how it would work … I never even considered that LinkedIn might be used. I have never heard anyone mention social media in relation to a job search

My experience is that almost without exception that this is the sentiment of  most of  the graduates with whom I have been in contact  internationally. The standard of their CVs is almost universally inadequate and  they would be lucky indeed to get past any ATS.   90%  of my personal contacts are  resistant to wholly embracing suggestions to  create a ” personal brand ” and harnessing social and professional media in their job search.  At a time when unemployment levels in the 18 – 24  demographic hovers at an all time high at up to 18% in some countries,  you would have thought that any tips to raise visibility would be readily adopted. The 10% of my contacts that did exactly that, were successful in securing employment.

Gen Y  Should I?
I  usually encourage them all to set up LinkedIn profiles,  but once they go off my radar they tend not to maintain them  – even the ones who get jobs.  I am happy to report that my son has now replaced his tree photo with a personal one! Their Facebook pages are generally sacrosanct,  reserved  for social purposes only,   accompanied by a deep reluctance to use them for  any professional reasons. The idea that  e-sourcers or CV data miners  look on Facebook every day for entry-level candidates fills them with horror and suspicion. They can be forgiven for this when there is so much conflicting information  circulating on this subject. I work in search – and trust me,  I use these tools, especially professional platforms every day,  as do my associates.

Filling the education gap
Gen Y  clearly can’t get the support they need in understanding the potential of these technologies from their Boomer parents,  because  not only do they share the same doubts and reluctance,   their resistance is  further compounded by a skill set deficit.   On top of that Boomers  using these limited skills very often coach their offspring in their job search efforts, with poor results.

So who then can fill that education gap? I checked out the web sites of  the career’s services of a dozen top universities internationally. There was barely a mention of modern job search strategies,  other than a passing reference to   “internet research” or “networking”.  Alex adds  “university careers services have spent more time telling me what I can’t do, rather than offering ideas/suggestions. “Be a teacher” or “have a look online” seem to be the standard responses… “.

A life skill
Laurent Brouat in his post  “The failure of  business schools and universities “  makes a case for including job search techniques into  university curricula.  Like me he finds today’s graduates woefully unprepared for what they need to do to enter the work place. Although I wouldn’t go along with his suggestion that  25% of course time  should be devoted to job search skills,   finding a job is an imperative life skill and  I believe deserves official  and specific academic attention.  This should cover networking actual and on-line ,  plus creating, marketing and delivering a strong personal brand .

The ultimate irony is that despite all the information that is readily available on the internet,  the generation which is best equipped to exploit these technologies for career advancement,  doesn’t  recognise the significance of  bridging the gap between social and profession  on- line connections.   Together with their parents they fall into  demographics hardest hit by the recession, but identically feel that these new technologies are for “other people” ,  older or younger,  but certainly not them!

But perhaps  Gen Y will eventually become  “Gen Y I should! ”  and just give it a whirl. Only time will tell.

Can you risk not having a career strategy?

Why strategic personal branding  is vital to career management
At the end of last year ,  I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture  and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching.    Although the central  theme,   slightly egocentrically,  focused on my own challenges and  frustrations of dealing with the  concept of  high on-line visibility, now a.k.a.  Personal Branding,   there was actually a key, underlying core message . The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.

What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis,  a personal brand and career strategy , regardless of our current age or place in our careers.    

Why?  
The recent recession has highlighted  not just unemployment trends, but  shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises.  Some companies have  been forced by economic circumstances to re – engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat.   Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace  flexibility to  instantly enhance  bottom line results . 

Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags  behind.  Permanent positions in companies  have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels.  Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas  and the reduction of  a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps”  is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level  is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of  consulting “,   but senior professionals  with  no other source of income.  

 In 2009,  according to the UK Office for National Statistics  there was a 31.5% rise  in unemployment for people over 50 ,  so at this age , there is a one in six chance of being out of work,  compared to Gen X  where  the  unemployment rate increased by  21.6 % .   However, even  if you do have a job  David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of  older,  more highly educated professionals  being employed in  lower skill level positions has  also  increased.  At the  other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships.  Their unemployment figures have hit 18%   with predictions  that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.

This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will  continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over.  At all levels.  The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a  planned career strategy will be more important than ever.    

Be strategic
Brian Tracy  suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ”  The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career.  They might take golf lessons or learn to paint,  but  the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation  and invests more money maintaining  their  cars, than  planning their careers.  So because they are unprepared,   any crisis ( redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments)   produces a flurry of activity,  not  specific or focused , but usually frantic  and urgent.  Deadlines  become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term.  CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed  and sometimes  in extremis,  even career coaches sought out.  We would never think of taking off  on a  road  trip in  an  un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college),  yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!  

Avoid brand prostitution
 @TomYHowe:    suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again”   that on going brand management  could lead to   “Life as sales”     and he is indeed correct ,  if not  applied strategically.  There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts  I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.  

Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as  @wpbierman:    amusingly quipped,  becoming ego related:   “I am being followed – therefore I am”.  Behind that funny one-liner there is for me  an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what   Rory Murray   describes as  ” maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.   

Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends  can be misleading.  Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post  suggesting that some  of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.

But for job seekers and headhunters alike there  is a great deal of strength in a weak network.    It is the new, global Rolodex and  why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely,  strategically and as early in your career as possible,  as the competition for permanent jobs hots up . 

Why? To stand out in a crowded market place 

  •  to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me.   That’s how you get noticed
  • To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation  and how you get those calls from people like me.
  • Build up  a strong  network as part of an ongoing career management  plan.

 That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.

Thanks to WP Bierman,  Lisa Braithwaite,   Rory Murray    and Tom Howe

 

Resume Advice: The good, the contentious and the simply misleading


Going into 2010:   A review of  the CV advice from 2009.  
Did you know that if you Google the phrase  “CV or Resume advice”  almost 57  MILLION results are produced?   Key in the words separately and you get almost 70 MILLION posibilities.  It seems for every  job seeker and CV writer, there is someone happy to dish out advice. This  is confusing to say the least,   because  although some  advisors are qualified, experienced  and up to date, others truthfully, are complete charlatans.  A percentage of  all this advice can be good.    Some is quite contentious, which is wonderful,  debate  is stimulating .  Some can quite often be regionally specific (generally  the US,  but that’s OK … there are a lot of you). There are also some pieces which are simply misleading. And  then finally , there is a small percentage which is actually total  nonsense. This last category I’m not even going to mention, most of it is so ridiculous.

Unlike many career transition coaches I am still an active in the area of executive research and search.  I review hundreds of CVs and profiles a week with a specific end in mind:  to find the best candidates  globally to meet my client’s needs, so I am often asked to assess CVs or even review articles .

Question ? How does the average job seeker sift through the morass of information when preparing their CV?

Answer: with difficulty  

Here is a small sample of the few things I’ve chosen to react to from 2009 going into 2010.

It’s the top of the first page that counts
Good : recruiters will generally be looking at your CV because it’s been generated by a key word activated Applicant Tracking System ( ATS)  or HRIS (Human Resource Information System) data base search. They will skim through your professional summary /mission statement which needs to be strong to avoid the reject pile. Make sure all contact information is clear and in the top lines. I actually get CVs with no phone numbers. Why make our lives difficult?  It doesn’t help you. You have between 15-20 seconds to get a reader’s attention.  Use it  and your limited amount of white space wisely. Any one who suggests that CVs  of more than 2 pages  in length are acceptable, are not active recruiters.  

 Chronological / Functional  CVs are out dated :
Contentious : Personally I like to know where a person has worked,  for how long, what they did,  as well as the major USPs in a tightly worded mission statement.  So I prefer to see a mix of functional and chronological information.  I don’t want to have to figure anything out.  Most of the CVs I see in an extended functional format tend to be from our US cousins – so a cultural difference perhaps. 

A professionally written resume and on-line profile will increase your chances of landing a job
Simply Misleading:  A strong , professional CV is vital,  but there are some caveats associated with having one that is professionally written by a third party.  As a coach I believe a CV should be written by the candidate themselves,  with  qualified,  professional  coaching support  as required. This gives complete ownership of the process to the individual. As a recruiter, I have seen too many candidates with strong professionally written CVs fall at the first hurdle of a telephone screening,  literally because they are a shadow of their own resumes. This strengthens my belief that you need to own your own message to guarantee success.

Personal objectives are old school
Good: we actually don’t care what you want! All we want to know is what have you done and can you do it for our client? If the client is interested in you, a good recruiter or search consultant will try to persuade you to do something different anyway. Rigid objectives limit creative thinking. Use numbers and strong language to illustrate your success stories succinctly. Or as Jim Rohn said   ” Don’t bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill.” 

Cover letters are obsolete
Contentious: This is a view propounded by many.   Phil Rosenberg  President at re-Careered  makes a  compelling case in his post on the subject.   To some extent I generally go along with the hypothesis.  In large, international companies with automated processes this is definitely true. However, there are  still some instances when a cover letter does help: in a small company,  with a personal connection or if the cover letter is in a different language to your CV.   The latter happens frequently in Europe where the  corporate lingua franca is English,  but the readers  themselves are not Anglophones. It’s all about targeting each application specifically,  whether  via customizing a resume or  making a decision to use a cover letter,  which  I know is hard work. So no , I don’t think cover letters are obsolete  – there is just a  new need to use them judiciously.

Coloured fonts, charts, graphs and boxed layout are advantageous
Simply Misleading : Some ATS systems will not recognise sophisticated layouts, including all of those points. So unless applying for a creative or design job , when uploading a CV especially via a web site, there is no substitute for a straightforward Word Document with clear headings, bullet points, white space,  plus  a decent size font , 10-12 points.  Most CVs are read initially on a computer screen and sometimes a lap top or even Blackberry/ iPhone. Resume design should take that into account. Complex layout turns a CV almost into a personal presentation and perhaps best taken as a hard copy to an interview or even included on your LinkedIn profile using the Slide Share Application.

Include your professional network url ( LinkedIn,  Xing, Viadeo, Plaxo  etc)
Good : I always check a CV against an on-line  profile or a professional network if there is one. These profiles quite often contain quick links to company information which is very helpful. However,  as I work globally, I obviously have to take into account  that candidates can come from cultures and countries where social media  and even broadband penetration is lower.

Traditional Resumes are out dated /dead
Contentious : There is no doubt that on-line presence is becoming a major factor in the early stages of identifying  candidates . But  to date I have never been involved in any search where the candidate has not eventually been  asked to produce a CV somewhere in the process. Ever. This would be in addition to a professional internet profile which savvy recruiters have already viewed. So I think they will be around for quite a while longer, but perhaps used more frequently in conjunction with other recruiting techniques.

Personal information is no longer required
Simply Misleading : Some personal information can be judiciously included in a CV and can say a lot about a candidate.  I always scan it. Do include non professional achievements, publications, keynote speaking , awards and activities – within reason.   Your U14 MVP mention is clearly of no interest.   I would definitely not give a home address – simply indicate location for security reasons. You are no longer required to indicate nationality, date of birth,  the year of graduation or marital status. Good recruiters will always figure out age anyway – but as ATS are frequently programmed with date parameters that is a good omission. I have seen some articles advocating hiding age  – but if anyone does that, for me it sends a message that they are in an older demographic and uncomfortable with it.  Don’t forget that we all leave our trail in cyber space and recruiters do access Facebook , LinkedIn , Twitter and Google to run checks! Some get to learn more about us than we want them too,  or even realise!

That’s about it – until the next batch of  advice comes out!

“I think therefore I exist?”. Wrong…think again!

Personal Branding and the 50-somethings!  
Every week I get messages from executives of a certain age , partly because of my post “ Job search strategies for the 50 something’s “   A typical one would be “ I  m working really hard,  have contacted 4 head hunters, sent off 25 CVs, been called for 8 interviews and short listed for 2 – but no luck.  Will I end up stacking shelves in Tescos/ Walmart / Carrefour  in January?   What do I have to do? P.S  Send food parcels”

The answers are in no particular order:  1) possibly  2) postal address  required  3) something different  . 

Visible message
The main point I took from this is despite being as  pro – active as they can,  these execs are still  not being contacted by head hunters as passive candidates.  So I check out their LinkedIn profiles , Twitter presence and Google them and can immediately tell if they have what  the new buzz word calls a Personal Brand. This seems to trip off my tongue lightly. Don’t be fooled!  Truthfully it is a phrase that I have only become familiar with over the past year because I had to confront it  both personally and professionally.  It is new speak for your clearly defined, highly  visible, core message.  

You too..
I  had always thought that personal branding was something associated with celebs (major and minor) being photographed getting out of cabs  (with or without underwear)  after  launching  over  priced costume jewellery ranges or  marketing dodgy smelling perfume.   So definitely NOT my thing!    The news  I received a year ago that I needed to work on an under performing  SEO,  conjured up notions of  an inactive muscle group,  requiring painful sessions with a trainer. Or worse still,  as financial markets lay in tatters  a  meeting with my bank manager .

So not only did I have to adapt my coaching programme to deal with changes in the job search market,  I also had to practise what I preached and get myself out of my comfort zone.  If anyone had told me that by the end of 2009 I would have been posting weekly blogs, writing comments and tweeting  like a trooper,  with my face splashed over the internet I would have been highly incredulous.   But here I am! So,  I can truthfully say that  I have walked the talk. I have also found it challenging, frustrating,  fulfilling, mind-opening. I have made amazing global connections and  come across some individuals who are simply different  in their expectations. Some I have let go, some I have embraced. So a formative learning curve.

Google ranking
A  year ago on Karen Purves’ advice  somewhat embarrassed, I  furtively Googled myself.  I always felt this was faintly narcissistic,  an activity reserved for aforementioned ego fragile  starlets. I gave up after about 10 pages. Even I was bored!  And I am me … or at least I thought I was. Not only was I not unique,  (there are numerous Dorothy Daltons)   I did not stand out from the crowd  at all.  Worse still  I was totally  invisible.  Whatever happened to ” I think therefore I exist”?

So after masses of research and consulting experts including Karen ,  it was obvious that there were 2 alternatives : a crisis or a plan .  I opted for the latter, knowing from experience that no matter how attractive drama  can appear  in the short-term, crises are a lot of work. Eventually there  has to be a plan.  It was partly laziness.  Age does have some advantages  – if there’s a short cut we look for it!

Get  a new habit
So to paraphrase Paul Getty, if business success is the force of habit , we 50 somethings  indeed have some deeply engrained ones. Some  are undoubtedly good,  some may need tweaking,  a few just totally nuking.  But we also need new ones. One of those is to  let go our cautiousness  regarding  on-line visibility and make that activity part of our daily routine.  If your name is not appearing  in any searches ( metrics- conveniently shown on your LinkedIn home page  – mid right ) or  getting those  discreet under the radar calls  from executive search companies,  this means that you too are probably regrettably invisible.  Gen Y are used to having every living moment  displayed on Facebook. Us Boomers are generally a more private generation.  But we need to get over that.    As Karen said  Google yourself! 

This personal journey I feel  has actually helped me have some credibility as a coach.  It is genuinely –  me too! If I can do it –  anyone can.

What do you need to do?

  •  Decide on  your “brand” focus.   This involves basic discovery work and goal setting. What are your USPs and success stories.  This is just another way of asking what is your core message? What do you offer?
  • Reserve your name  if you can as a url on a number platforms: LinkedIn,  Facebook and Twitter, Skype,  plus the .com domain.  If you name isn’t available make it something as close as possible. Use that consistently on all platforms.  
  • Use the same photo on all media
  • Make sure your email address and urls coincide. Lose hottotrot 1985@hotmail.com That stopped being cool circa 1987.
  • Set up a full LinkedIn profile ( Viadeo,  Xing, Naymz or any other … or all of them) Pro-actively increase your network and raise your visibility
  • Open a Twitter account with personalised home page and start to engage.
  • Set up a blog –   with a feed to your LinkedIn profile establish yourself as  a sector guru and expert. 
  • Participate in discussions, answer questions, post comments on other people blogs 
  • Create your own web site.

I am a work in progress –  as indeed we all are.     Karen  has very kindly offered to give me an end of year performance appraisal! 

Watch this space…

The strength of a weak network

In the past year I have attended more conferences, courses (on and off-line) seminars and webinars than possibly in the whole of my previous career. I have read articles , periodicals, blogs, newspapers, e- zines, magazines and worthy tomes. I wouldn’t consider myself to be especially perceptive generally, but I could see a year ago as markets crashed and millions of people were impacted by events outside their control,  that for my profession,  adapting to change would be key to prepare for any upturn.  So there was a strong need to get up to speed.  I identified pretty early on and somewhat unusually quickly for me,  the strength of what is now called a “weak network”.

Resisting change
In my role as a coach and an executive search professional I constantly come across individuals erecting barriers to embracing change in the way business is now being done across many sectors, but especially in recruitment and search on both sides of the process. People who are active in these new media tend to endorse each other’s efforts and so are essentially preaching to the choir. But in the general congregation I have noticed undoubted resistance and scepticism.

Impact of social media
Last week I attended the AESC European Conference ( Association of Executive Search Consultants) where a number of speakers eloquently shared their thoughts and studies of different economic changes and the impact these would have on talent management and executive search in Europe. @GeorgKolb  of Pleon,  Deutschland, gave a great and dynamic presentation on the impact of social media on the sector and  there was some talk that executive search could be reduced to a job  matching process by these new developments.

Wide networks
Many executive search consultants rely on their Rolodex contacts to facilitate introductions to potential candidates. But at the same time global internet sourcers, who could be based in India, Eastern Europe or anywhere else in the world, are equally active using Boolean Strings to remotely identify passive and active candidates they have never even heard of,  from information that is in the public domain via the internet. These might be professional networks, or any other source.  Many of us are not aware that  we all constantly leave our footprint in cyber space and are visible and traceable, whether we or not we want to be,  or even like the idea. The profession is in the throes of a major refocus when as a recruiter I am  possibly more likely to  identify a candidate from  social media or  on-line network than my immediate physical one.  My LinkedIn network, modest by some standards,  has a global reach of over 18 million people. Most of them could care less about me until maybe one day, they appear in a search and I approach them for what might be their dream job. The chances of me reaching that number of people through traditional networks are I’d say…. zero.

Cyber Sleuths
There is now a new breed of recruiter called a Cyber Sleuth! Such is the power of having a wide “weak ” network Shally Steckerl  of Arbita  has been arbitrarily stopped by LinkedIn from extending his network any further now it has reached 30000 LinkedIn users.  One client Nils Oudejans has voluntarily limited himself at 26000 connections before any restrictions are imposed on him.

Another strength of a weak network is that it is democratic. You don’t need to be in the right club or church, have attended a certain school  or worked in  a specific company to get connected. Generally if someone has a strong and professional on-line presence,  adds value  and  communicates  in an appropriate way, they are accepted. There are no barriers to entry based on academic qualifications, age, gender, race or sexual orientation. There are no exorbitant subscription or membership fees.   Porn and affiliate marketing spammers are treated the same as they would be in any network – excluded!  People who don’t engage get left out. Same as in  a physical network.

Personal Branding
On the transition side I coach clients specifically in raising their on-line visibility, now called Personal Branding.. Many are conservative and concerned because they don’t know  ” these people” who contact them via social media platforms and who invite them to “be- friend” “follow” or “connect “.   It’s sometimes an uphill struggle to explain that it doesn’t matter if they haven’t been physically introduced and no one cares about that,  and it’s about the added value of the contact, however remote. Do any of us know absolutely everyone in our alumni associations or golf clubs? No, of course not. This is no different.  On-line connections can actually be just as meaningful and sometimes more so, than physical ones. It’s about being visible, not just to them directly, but to their networks and being seen to offer quality.

Wide networks can be narrower than you think!
I can only speak from experience. I have more daily contact with some members of  my virtual network than even my family, who  I suspect might not understand what I do! This isn’t even a generational issue. My own Gen Y son,  is completely resistant to the idea that recruiters access Facebook to search for entry-level candidates  and will not use it for professional purposes. His new LinkedIn photo bore a striking resemblance at one time to what I can only describe as a tree. Happily this has now been changed. I have baby boomer executive search colleagues with limited on-line presence who balk at the idea of filling out their profiles and others who resist using keywords in all their presentations,  despite all the evidence that this is what they need to do.

When I met @MarionChapsal who I connected with via Twitter, my brother @MD60 was issuing ominous warnings about  potential axe murderers lurking in cyber space.  As 1 in 6 marriages today in the US  begin with  an on-line connection,  the way adults initially interact  before physically meeting  for the first is time  is constantly changing.   Not that I wanted to marry Marion by the way, beautiful though she is – it was just an illustration of changes going on! As we saw in the backlash against  Jan Moir,  after her  ill advised article about the death of Stephen Gately,  Twitter has the potential to be more powerfully viral than swine flu.

Best combination for best talent
I am in no way dismissing traditional executive search and recruitment strategies for identifying the best talent. They are invaluable skills. At some point telephones have to be picked up and face-to- face interviews arranged  – so for me on -line job matching is not the best option for finding high calibre candidates.  Just as job seekers  have to leave the security of their computers and exhibit strong inter personal skills.  But the combination of the old methodologies combined with the new cyber sleuthing skills, make a formidable combination for identifying the best global talent.

Job seekers: the new breed of entrepreneur?

I was chatting to a girlfriend  recently who wanted to talk about her career options. She didn’t know really what she wanted to do – but she did have strong ideas about what she didn’t want to do – “nothing entrepreneurial   ” she  told me emphatically.     The sub text was that  this was a bit risky, possibly   slightly pushy  ( all that  ghastly selling  ) and maybe even  vaguely tacky,  just  too reminiscent of Alan Sugar and the Apprentice for comfort.  She just wanted to find a normal job.

But what is a normal job and can it be found normally?

I think she’s due for a wake up call.

Internet
The internet has revolutionised our lives in so many ways especially the way and speed in which we do things and exchange information. The recruitment process, as with many other sectors has been dramatically impacted and is constantly evolving in response to technological advancement.  These developments have coincided with a  dramatic worldwide recession and a huge decrease in the number of jobs available. Job loss outstripped job creation 3:1 in the first quarter of 2009 in Europe.  Globally unemployment figures are now tipping over the 9% mark, so that  in some countries and sectors almost 1 in 10 people are now unemployed. The number of jobs posted on line in the US dropped by 13%, 2008 on 2009, where there are now 3.3 candidates for every position.

The goal posts are moving
HR Managers claim that thousands of applicants per vacancy is commonplace. 80% of recruiters use on-line media and search engines to identify and source candidates for the hidden job market and only 20% of jobs are advertised in a traditional way.   Entry level candidates compete even for unpaidemployment .   

“For every 1,470 resumes, there ’s 1 job offer made and accepted” – Richard Bolles, bestselling author, What Color is Your Parachute?

Phrases such as  personal branding,  career management,   raised visibility and google ranking  have slipped imperceptibly into the career coaching lexicon.  The goal posts are moving faster than you can say Beckham or Ronaldo. Today’s “normal ” may have reached its  shelf life before the Q4 results are released.

The days when we could join a company and stay with it ” man and boy”   ( or to be politically inclusive “woman and girl”)  as the saying goes,  are  long gone.  As are the days of guaranteed employment until retirement in any job. Will retirement  even exist as a concept  for future generations? The truth is we don’t  know.  What we do know is that there are no guarantees. 

We are also learning that we have to do things differently and if we don’t we’ll get left behind.

Doing things differently
So as I coach people in  enhancing their competitive edge by recognising their added value and looking for metrics to demonstrate that, identifying their USPs,  creating a personal brand, increasing their visibility via different media to just the optimum level   (not over doing it to become a nuisance factor), protecting their on-line image , topped off by the perfectly pitched elevator sound bite,  for casual  and appropriate introduction  on all occasions and functions,  it strikes me that this is actually probably no different to a company running its operations and  launching a product on the market.   

Does this mean that we all now have to become mini entrepreneurs in our job ( opportunity)  seeking efforts and that managing a career is now like managing a business ? 

Both require  creative thinking,  identifying  target markets,  an effective product launch, closing the deal , client relationship management,  long term planning and maintenance, underpinned by sound  on – going investment. 

So yes …I guess it does.

Mind Management: Beat Negative Thinking

Every day I coach incredibly talented, successful people with amazing skill sets, backgrounds and experience. But whether they are entry level, mid career or CEOs with long track records, many struggle to market themselves in the right way. One thing most have in common is without exception, they self -sabotage and block their own progress, not so much with what they do directly – but what they think. These thoughts not only control the outcome of any actions, but equally significantly, can also be at the root of inaction, lack of engagement and follow through. This is particularly hard to track if we develop strategies for seeming to be active (” busy-ness”) when indeed the opposite is going on. There is a lot of truth in the old adage “mind over matter”. Or mind matters!

Mind fabrication
I’m not talking about people losing sleep over being losers or useless. That would be too obvious. These thoughts are much more passive, pernicious,subtle and insidious, so ultimately more damaging. They are small disruptive internal messages that insinuate our sub-conscious thinking and keep re-playing in our heads until we believe them and ultimately act on them. We don’t know why, or sometimes that these notions are even there. My son has a great phrase “drowning in my own thoughts” to describe those negative messages, which pop up when we least want them. Worse still, they provide an invisible, sub- conscious structure for our decision making processes but just as importantly for our lack of decision making.

I had a Skype call with a guy based in London this week who wanted some job search support. No problem. During the conversation he mentioned several times ” being out of work for 2 years” and a need to explain a ” 2 year gap on my CV”. I scanned his CV. I checked and double checked. Nothing. Eventually I asked him when this 2 year gap had started. He replied December 2008. Okay.. we’re now July 2009 – how was that 2 years? That thought was a complete mind fabrication !

Self sabotaging
At some level he had persuaded himself that his mid career decision to take a 12 month MBA course was ” opting out” and therefore a period of unemployment, so he would need to defend his position with recruiters and interviewers. I have no idea where this pressure came from, that is complex and we only talked for 45 minutes. I just saw the outcome. Another approach could be that he had taken a brave risk, left a great job in a top company to strategically develop his career. It required leaving his own country and moving to a foreign one, adapting to a different culture and learning another language. His graduation coincided with the height of the credit crunch. That was the fault of a group of out of control bankers and a global trend in mindless consumerism. Nothing to do with him. Not only should recruiters not see this career enhancement step as a negative, but they should recognise it for what it is – a great series of achievements. (GC I hope you’re reading this!)

Re-frame with questions
So if you feel that anyone doesn’t understand you, start asking them some relevant questions to check they have insight into your situation. In this case they might be monolingual or mono cultural and lived in the same town all their lives. If they can’t see what you’re about – perhaps you need to change the type of recruiter you’re choosing to work with. Negative thinking is at the root of most self sabotaging coping strategies: procrastination and perfectionism to name just two. We all do it because we fear what other people will think of us and ultimately we fear failure. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. No one is unique, everyone goes through this at different times over different issues and even outwardly successful senior people have doubts at times.

Write things down
So how can you tackle that? Simple. Write the thought down. When written down a thought becomes clearer. Let’s pick one and track the subsequent underlying thinking that might be churning beneath the surface and needs to be teased out. This is a very typical negative thought process that I work through with many people on a weekly basis.

Track the message !
ORIGINAL THOUGHTHmmm… I should apply for that job” write that down and then track in writing, your subconscious ,internal negative dialogue which might be something along these lines:

**But.. wait… if I send in my CV, they might call me .. **and I won’t know what to say … **then I’ll make a complete idiot of myself on the phone and maybe in the interview… **then they’ll know how useless I am..** then I won’t get the job .. .**then they might tell everyone….**then everyone will know I’m stupid and laugh at me.. **then I’ll let my whole family down… ** then I won’t get any job anywhere, ever… **then I’ll never work again… then I’ll have no money so I’ll be bankrupt … **then I’ll lose my house .. *then my wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/kids/goldfish will all leave me forever.. **then I’ll be on benefits/welfare or living in a box … **then everyone in the world will hate me…then Hmmm … OK…. I just need to go to the supermarket/pub/shower …I’ll send the CV off after dinner.

Sound vaguely familiar? So how do you deal with this?

Look at the facts
Ok, now write down some opposing thoughts. Look at the facts. Realistically just by sending off your CV, what are the chances of you living in a box, with everyone thinking you’re a fool and everyone completely hating you? Right.. Absolutely ZERO. You indeed be might be mismatched for the opening or your CV is not strong enough, but that is quite different. Why? All those things can be changed. There is quite often underlying wisdom in humour and as the joke goes everyone doesn’t know you. Keep a job search log so you can’t convince yourself into thinking that you’re active when you’re not. Facts talk.

Reality check
The reality will be that the most damaging outcome is nothing. Your CV will not be selected by the ATS and you will sink into job search oblivion. Nothing is not good. So any action or activity from that process, even the messages you don’t want to hear, are learning experiences and not negative ones.

What have you learned from doing nothing? That you you need to act now, otherwise the whole process repeats itself .