Category Archives: social media

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 .

How’s your cyber footprint?

What impact does our cyber foot print have and how much should we be mindful of it?

A Twitter connection asked me the other day, somewhat to my surprise , if I had an alias for my “fun and social side”. I have to say an eyebrow was raised! The thought of myself skulking around cyber space with a nom de plume or an alter ego, stretched the imagination. However the question was actually entirely serious and raised a very valid point that I had been discussuing during the week with fellow professionals and coachees. What impact does our cyber foot print have and how much should we be mindful of it?

Raised visibility
As a transition coach I talk to individuals constantly about raising visibility and the job search process changing from looking for a job, to becoming a need to be found. So they are coached through a process to raise their SEO and their Google ranking, to connect on Linkedin and to be active on other social media. Some I encourage to have a blog and a web site, all to enable job search specialists to easily locate them. All the time, this supposes that they are being tracked for their excellent professional backgrounds and first class, on- target experience, rather than photos of them stealing signs during their college days, or messages about whooping it up at some party. So my visibility suggestions are also accompanied by equal doses of cautionary tales to be careful about what is posted by and about them, not just in their own posts, but via other people’s.

Mike Dalton, Partner  Co-Founder Youbug , with deep experience in the internet security sector says this:  ” People need to be aware of just who can see what when they join social networking sites. Recent changes in Facebook’s privacy settings defaulted to everyone being able to see everything you post. So check the privacy settings of any social media you use and make sure that only those you want to see your posts can see them. … take care about what you post…. too much detail could put you at risk of identity theft, if not directly from the information on the web, then through social engineering. Before posting anything ask yourself “will I ever regret posting this?

This is only part of my current concern
Shankar Srinivasan a Recruitment Technologist in his blog of July 1st ( Glimpse into the Future of Recruitment Technology) brings to our attention the future of recruitment ,with all the new technological developments in the pipeline. One of these is candidate profiling from social media content. Eventually he anticipates that profiles of candidates can be drawn up from input to sites such as Facebook,Linkedin, Twitter and so on. So all sorts of conclusions can be drawn from even the most harmless, innocent and banal details which send out messages to others about our personalities, our values and our skill sets: in photos, web sites, texts, messages and tweets. I suspect this might also ultimately have an interesting impact on psychometric testing.

Multiple accounts
I actually don’t have an alias! I believe that people do business with and recruit people they like and trust and you can’t give an all round impression of yourself if you only display one side of your character and keep the other half hidden. But then I don’t have a terribly wild or mysterious life either and as many of you already know, the organisation of it all would simply confound me! I think I would also find having two different personas quite hard work. So no, I don’t have a professional and a social account. But I do understand why some people do this, even though I believe that software spiders will eventually be able to penetrate even private social accounts to glean any information they’re looking for. So in time it won’t make any difference if they are separate or combined .

Manage your message
But I am also mindful that I am constantly leaving cyber messages on a daily basis, not just about my professional life, but also about my personality, my skill set and deficiencies (some of them very obvious) hobbies, interests, family, values, opinions etc. Each time we send a message, post a blog, write something on someones wall, tweet, answer a discussion,join a professional network, we are telling the world something about ourselves. How we engage, react, the vocabulary we use, the topics we that we pursue,all tell a story about who we are.

We can’t control how people react to us, but we can manage the message. By that I don’t mean being fake. For me it just means treating cyber space as you would any other networking or social arena. Social norms still prevail. Why should things be any different because you’re on line? The only thing now is that everything is in writing and can be traced. Nothing will disappear the day after. It can come back to haunt you and it might well. They say that 47% of candidates are rejected based on on – line content, although that figure is not very meaningful. The same people may have been ruled out in a networking event.

Guidelines
So what are basic rules or guidelines? Same as in actual life I think. Don’t be rude, bitchy, abusive, crude or aggressive. Don’t swear. Anything private and intimate – should be just that… private. Don’t over share! Just as it’s inadvisable to drink and dial – don’t tweet when tight. Don’t bad mouth your boss, company or co-workers! They will find out . Keep language constructive and it might even be be wise if inflammatory topics are kept for email or phone contact. Would you try and flog someone a timeshare or marketing programme the minute you were introduced at a party? No. So why do it on-line? In all, it’s just commonsense. Mike also warns that he knows people who can find any information on the web, even items which have been deleted  ”  …. information posted  on the web stays there for ever!  You may well delete a dubious photograph  or an unfortunate remark, but it is still out there, and it can be found.”

Sensible engagement
So bearing all this in mind, I actually think that people, whether fellow professionals or recruiters, do want to see the lighter sides of their professional on – line connections in the right and appropriate context of course. Just as you would off line. Otherwise the process becomes only about information exchange, rather than authentic engagement. I still think that despite all the technology that surrounds us, that’s what we all want. To engage.  

Small decisions can create BIG changes

How good is your best?

We all think we do absolutely the best we can to resolve issues that challenge us. Losing weight, getting fit, looking for a job. But do we really?

As a recruiter and coach I play an active part in professional networks and also LinkedIn discussion groups. I hear and see individual cries of frustration and anger every day: confused posts in group discussions or I take part in anxious telephone conversations or meetings. There is always the same underlying theme. Individuals are sending out their CVs to all and sundry, networking flat out, and are doing absolutely everything they possibly can to get a job. But something simply isn’t working. The economy, recruiters and HR are all working against them. Their pain is palpable.

There are a few that specifically catch my attention and I always check out their LinkedIn profiles or look at their web sites and when I do, I can immediately see, as most career transition coaches could, where some difficulties might be rooted. It can be any number of things, incomplete profiles, spelling mistakes, poor lay out on CVs and confusing web sites, a low number of connections and so on. So although these are tough times, there are still ways to improve those job searching odds of at least participating in the process.

It may just mean you have to do something different, something very small.  Do this before anything more serious such as depression kicks in. This is clearly going to lead to general health issues, as well as being a barrier to career  and general success. Activity produces results. So does being open to change.

So I suggest looking at the following as a first step:

1. Log your results: Keep a log of all your job search efforts by date and detail each part of the search process . Each call, each CV you send out. Each networking event. What were the results? Is there an underlying pattern? If you are not making it out of the CV reject pile then you should consider examining the early part of your search- what can you change there? If you are falling down after an interview, evaluate that part of the process. Sometimes people lose track of exactly what they’re doing and especially when we’re stressed, our memories play tricks. We also fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing things in a certain way, when we’re not. Keeping a log gives an incontestable factual record, where no one can be fooled, not even ourselves.

2.How well are you communicating your message? Make sure your message is clear and strong. We tend to think what we’re doing is perfectly obviously to everyone else, but sometimes it isn’t, especially if you have a hybrid or highly technical function. I frequently see documents where what the individual is doing or has achieved, is not really clear, or sometimes not even stated at all. I don’t have time to search through a rambling 3 page CV trying to figure it out. Ask someone neutral from outside your function to review your web site, CV or elevator speech. If it’s clear to them, then it should be clear to everyone else.

3. Is your message powerful enough? I recently coached someone who had trebled the turnover of his business unit in his last job,but that wasn’t even mentioned on his CV. Another guy had closed a $ 0.5 billion ( yes billion) deal at head of state level and he hadn’t stated that fact in those exact words. So use strong vocabulary to market your skills and qualify all achievements with numbers. Don’t worry about boasting. Stating a fact isn’t bragging. It’s all in the delivery and manner and it is possible to recount your achievements without seeming egotistical .

4. Networking: Are you effectively tapping into your direct network and maximising all your contacts? The more people who know about your job search efforts the better. If you struggle with this as many do because being in transition isn’t easy, take steps to build up your resilience and confidence.

5. Connectivity: How well connected are you? Look at the number of connections you have on LinkedIn. If you are not widely connected you will appear on a limited number of searches.  Remember this is a global database for recruiters and it’s all about the maths. Numbers count. If you pride yourself on only being connected to people you know – now might be a good time to re-think your strategy. People who don’t know you could be searching for you. But you don’t know that. I am not an open networker, but 26000 people joined my network in the past 3 days. Your direct network will of course be extremely useful – but it would still be very unwise to rule out indirect networking.

6. Visbility: Raise your professional visibility both on line and off. On your LinkedIn home page you can monitor the number of times you appear in searches – check that out on a regular basis. Change key words and see if that makes a difference. Join groups. Participate in discussions. Answer questions. All of these things help raise your profile. Off line, volunteer for any sort of activity that will raise your visibility in your community, sector or profession. Attend networking events, write professional articles, join professional associations. Once again anything to raise your profile. Do you have business cards? How many do you give out a week?

7. Ask for feedback: Ask for feedback from any or all of the players in the recruitment process. If that’s not possible, many say they can’t get past gatekeepers or only get indifferent and unhelpful neutral answers, brainstorm with a trusted friend, peer , coach or mentor who can communicate constructively possible areas needed for improvement.

If any of this fails consider enlisting professional help.

Socrates said that “ Only the extremely ignorant or the extremely intelligent can resist change” As all of us fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum – so give change a whirl.