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Why there’s only one new year’s resolution to make in job search

Make it a big one!

Take control of the elements within your control

Why you only need one new year’s resolution in job search

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”  Tony Robbins

I’m a well documented contrarian when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. I think particularly with job search that goals should be ongoing and strategic. It’s no use setting any goals  in January and only to forget about them during the rest of the year. But there is a lot of hype associated with the start of a professional new year and this week is the first back to work after a protracted break for many.  It’s perhaps better to tap into the momentum of the zeitgeist than ignore it.

So instead of setting multiple potentially short-lived, minor goals  – go for  just one. But think big.

Commit to taking control of your job search.

This is particularly important for the behavioural and serial procrastinator who avoids taking on any tasks because of the complexity of choice, perfectionism, or fear of failure.  Procrastination is ‘the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.”  says Wayne Dyer.

I worked with a client this weekend for the first time who bemoaned the inequities in the recruitment system, only to find that two days before a major interview he was not familiar with the content of the hiring company’s website.   His lack of past success and confidence,  I suspect can be attributed to the fact that he was simply inadequately prepared.

That is his responsibility and totally within his control. 

But with a new year and new challenges,  the task can seem daunting. To avoid falling into the trap of  “in one year out the other” what can be done going forward?  Simply make a basic commitment to taking control of the elements of your job search where it’s feasible and possible to do so.

Branding

So much of this process  is in the hands and at the whim of others or  impacted by happenstance.

These are the elements outside your control:

  • The number  and quality of  other applicants
  • The organisational structure
  • The recruitment process
  • The perception of others
  • The personalities of others
  • The questions posed
  • The decision-making process

So that means we should firmly take control of the things where and when we can.

Within our control we have:

  • —Our mind set
  • Our personal appearance and image
  • —CV content and presentation
  • —Online presence & content
  • ——Non verbal communication
  • Verbal delivery
  • —Responses and pitches prepared
  • Constructive and effective interaction

If a job seeker struggles with any of these critical components in  job search on an ongoing basis,  and can’t  or doesn’t take control,   then some basic questions need to be asked perhaps with professional help.

They’re just not that into you…Organisational red flags

Organisational red flags -  do you ignore them?

Organisational red flags – do you ignore them?

He’s just not that into you ” is the headline from  He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt , the modern girls guide to men, dating and relationships.

It is about the brutal truth to save us women from complete denial when we fail to take on board something that is glaringly obvious to everyone around us.

We  convince ourselves that our rose-coloured version of reality is the correct one,  even if all the signs scream a  totally different message . We have all been  in relationships that are  dysfunctional,  one-sided or perhaps just past their sell by date.   If he doesn’t call it’s because he lost his phone,  broken both his hands or  (poor darling…)  had to go unexpectedly to some remote wilderness and signal- less location. Despite our excuses and even defence of an indifferent or bad relationship,  the reality is we are not  important enough for them to call. GB ” If he creates expectations for you, and then doesn’t follow through on little things, he will do same for big things.”

They are just not that into us. Sound familiar?

Well, like many truisms this philosophy is transferable and can be applied to other situations,  even corporate relationships.  Many employees hang onto old jobs, roles and relationships for all the wrong reasons,  when all evidence is suggesting they should getting a Plan B and getting one fast.

Frederick,  Regional Sales Director of an international  logistics company  had been the designated deputy for the C.E.O. for 9 years and  expected to be appointed on his retirement.  He was shocked to find that the position was advertised externally. He had not been appointed or even invited to apply for the job he had been effectively doing in his boss’ absence for many years.  He pushed hard to be considered as a candidate and although he went through the  interview process with an executive search firm,  an external candidate was appointed.  The VP  H.R. claimed to be too busy to discuss this with him directly and asked a junior assistant to make the turn down call.

Message:  they aren’t that into him. If they had wanted him for the job they would have spoken to him not just for an interview,  but maybe even years before and started a development process.   There are a lot of red flags here.  GBThe word “busy” is the relationship Weapon of Mass Destruction…..  Remember: Men are never too busy to get what they want.”

Manuela returned from maternity leave in the banking sector and instead of slotting back into her position leading a large team , she was shunted into a solo operator functional role with no teeth. She was excluded from key meetings and responsibilities that had previously been hers were  re-allocated to employees who had previously reported to her .    She was told she needed to re-build her reputation after being in the company for five years. She is still working hard to retrieve her position,  putting in long hours despite having a small baby. She rationalizes the decisions  in terms of organisational imperatives and gender stereotyping which she hopes she can turn around.

Message:  they aren’t  that into her.  1 in 6 women experience contractual difficulties on return from maternity leave. Companies who value their female employees will honour and respect contractual obligations.  Will Manuela effect a successful turnaround of opinion?   Should she have to go through this exercise just because she’s had a baby?  These are all organisational red flags.  GB  “When it comes to men, deal with them as they are, not how you’d like them to be.”  

Simon was hired from outside the financial services sector as a C.F.O. designate,   to step into the senior role after a three-year grooming period. When the outgoing C.F.O.  left suddenly after only 18 months,  under a mysterious cloud,  the position was given to a colleague.  It was felt that Simon lacked the necessary experience  to assume a senior role and as the errant C.F.O.’s protogé, he that he might be happier elsewhere. Despite  a tough time at the height of the recession,  he finally got another job. In the meantime the new appointee isn’t working out and Simon has been approached to return as his departure has left a gap in the organisation.

Message:  they aren’t that into him.  That was a major red flag. They could not see any potential and would not invest in coaching or other onboarding programmes to guarantee success. None of the other executives were willing to support him  because appointing Simon was a risk they didn’t want to take.   GB “Don’t be flattered that he misses you. He should miss you. You are deeply missable. However, he’s still the same person who just broke up with you”.

Organisations that value employees look after them and groom them. They treat them with integrity. They provide support for growth and development.  If they have issues they communicate them constructively so that the employee is clear and can make informed choices.

If they fail to behave correctly once,  will that be a pattern that is repeated? Are the early warning signals likely to re-occur?  Like in other relationships there is always a chance of an epiphany and the neglectful employer will reform. They are also  strong indications that forming a Plan B would be a good idea. GBThe quickest way to rectify that mistake (choosing the wrong person) is by learning from that, moving on, and choosing much more wisely in the future.”

What do you think?

Do you have a “Go-To” Top 10?

Who are your Go-To Top 10?

Who are your Go-To Top 10?

All of us have situations which are problematic. They can range from  minor irritations and something irksome, to outright  emergencies.    To get out of a hole we might need repairmen, baby sitters or service providers in a wide range of fields.  But one area which we woefully neglect  is the development of strategic alliances to support an emergency in our careers.

We all need a ‘Go-To” Top 10.

These will be your top 10 top professional connections to whom you can turn in a crisis or even with a problem or a question.

All our requirements are different when we assess who should be included on that list.  Broadly speaking there are some general guidelines that apply to us all.  There will be variations according to the severity of the situation:  whether it’s a little situational glitch, a specific question or something more major requiring a full  emergency landing.

  • Go-To Top 1 : Do you have a mentor?  This would be the senior or elder states person in your professional life who can share their deep experience and wisdom.  This will be immediately calming and informative as appropriate,  or both.
  • Go-To Top 2 :  Do you have an internal sponsor?   This role will be filled by a  confidante,  a door opener,  someone whose  professional status and standing will be sufficiently significant to catalyze responses to calls and emails,  or even better to effect introductions to contacts beyond your reach .
  • Go-To  Top 3, 4 and 5: Do you have external sponsors?  See above,  but with a wider reach in your geographic region or functional or market sector.  Having one for each segment of activity would be even more beneficial. If you have connections in line with your longer term goals so much the better.
  • Go-To  Top 6: Do you know a super-connector?  This will be different for all of us.  I count on my super connectors,  but in turn fulfill that function for others. They are the ones who say  ” Let me think… have you tried …????.”
  • Go-To Top 7  Do you know a curator? We all come across the person whose catch phrases are ” have you seen? or ” have you read?” These individuals will be veritable gold mines of information, sometimes obscure, sometimes less so. They will know where to look for any key information on and  in the latest emergency and can send you there quickly, thus saving you hours of valuable time.
  • Go-To  Top 8:  Do you have a port in a storm? We all need a sympathetic shoulder to lean on,  some one who will be there only for us. Their role is not to advise  but perhaps put the kettle on,  open a bottle of something cold and white (or warm and red) and just listen neutrally.   Very often this role is best  fulfilled outside an intimate relationship,  although  not always.
  • Go-To Top 9:  Do you have a devil’s advocate?   Their role in any Go-To Top 10 is to give you the viewpoint from the other side. Their skill in constructive communication will be peerless as they force us to examine our own roles and responsibilities in any debacle and communicate that to us in a way we can hear .  They risk our moods, wrath and petulance or even worse. They are people who know us well.
  • Go-To  Top 10:  Do you have a  list of specialists  Whether this includes doctors, lawyers, coaches, bank managers   accountants or any other type of professional  or technical specialist, it’s always useful to have a full,  up to date list of people you can call on.  If anyone in a network has no problem being contacted out of the blue after years of neglect, it’s usually because they are charging a significant fee.

Who would you put on your list?

Employers – are YOU interview ready?

Although top-level  candidates are investing increasingly in their employee brands and interview readiness, I’ve heard many stories that would suggest that some organisations are  getting complacent.  Mistakenly they believe that either being a good manager  automatically makes them good interviewers,  or with the market awash with candidates they don’t have to make an effort. They have basically let their interview readiness slip.

So for many companies it is perhaps time to carry out an audit of  interview processes:

  •  Have priorities been set and agreed?   It’s no good labelling the process urgent if the interviewers have operational commitments  (year-end closure, sales conference etc) within that timescale and have no availability. If they are called away unexpectedly –  who is the number 2?
  • Empower the interviewer  – ensure that at least one player in the process is authorised to make the hiring decision.  Delays for rubber stamping higher up the organisation chart increases the chance of  top candidates being snapped up by other companies or being able to leverage their situation with their current employer in the hope of a counter offer.
  • Timely, clear and courteous communication by all company members to create the best possible impression. Candidates lose interest if the process is unnecessarily extended and they are not kept in the loop.  They should be treated  immediately and correctly by all involved in the process, even secretaries and receptionists.
  • Avoid ” trial by interview”:   Candidates withdraw if they are called back multiple times to talk to different managers involved in the process, only to be asked the same questions by each. For many this will mean taking several days vacation and could jeopardise their  position with their current employer.
  • Environment  – candidates should be interviewed in a location that is appropriate for the position. They will notice if the office is untidy, the furniture old and scruffy, the computers outdated and the bathrooms inadequate.  Be mindful that small things send out big messages.
  • Professional grooming:  Interviewers should be appropriately  groomed for the sector.
  • Inappropriate or discourteous treatment: I have seen interviewers cancel appointments with 30 minutes notice,  take telephone calls during the interview,  invite candidates for dates,  raise their voices at them,  be fuzzy and unprepared about their own opening, with no job profile to hand and not having given the CV an even cursory glance,  forgetting the candidate’s name. I could go on!  This creates a bad impression.
  • Careless talk   – casual throw away remarks particularly around work/ life balance, corporate values,  management style, career development and salary structure can also cause concern. Just as employers would expect candidates to be well rehearsed with their responses , employers also have to be mindful of the fall out of ill-considered statements. Body language is also important.
  • Inappropriate or even illegal questions.   The widely publicised need for political correctness seems to have passed many by, especially when  interviewing women.
  • Time wasting  – searches are quite often conducted externally to benchmark internal candidates. If any process is for form’s sake only,  be mindful to keep the time demanded of candidates to a minimum.
  • Record keeping. It’s important to keep neutral and factual notes of all candidates seen in the process, even ones who don’t make the cut. You may want to call them back  at some time in the future. Research carried out by Start Wire suggests that only 33% of Fortune 500 companies  are willing to give feedback despite evidence that failure to do so  damages not just their employer brand but their product branding as well.

 Many companies assume that people skills come naturally and interviewing is only about ” having a chat”  with a candidate. Clearly personal chemistry is important,  but  sadly some interviewers have been found lacking, with not even minimal investment in  basic training.

In this case success isn’t just about showing up!

Damage to an employer brand in today’s hi-tech culture  is only one click away. Word does get round professional bodies, alumni associations and the market sector.

If any of this sounds cringingly familiar – now is the time to do an audit.

Portfolio Careers: impact on workplace & jobseeker

Portfolio careers a rich tapestry of work experience - on the increase

A Portfolio Careera tapestry of a variety of eclectic employment experiences; employment in a series of short-contract or part-time positions

Not new but on the increase
The term Portfolio Career is being used in current business  vernacular  with the same type of smug and superior ” in the know -ness” ,  as we might have seen when the atom was split or  the wheel invented.  I always smile indulgently! The concept of a portfolio career is actually far from new. What is new is the number who have embarked on this career path.

“Moonlighting” has long been a euphemism associated with  individuals aspiring to break into such professions as  acting, music , arts, writing etc,  or others running more than one job. As companies abandon the corporate  ” cradle to grave” employment concepts,  and move towards the leaner and meaner machines of more recent times,  we had already started to see the beginnings of this seismic shift some years ago. Business Week referenced the changing work place practise of   Perma Temps,   as organisations  began to seek flexible ( =  disposable) workforces, to allow rapid response to fast changing business conditions.

I view and review literally hundreds of CVs in any given week.  Although predicted by all the trend spotters, the shift to individuals having an increasing  number of jobs and spending less time in each , is becoming very marked. I am  often asked to avoid ” hoppers/movers/jumpers”, but that is now an outmoded concept,  particularly as younger age demographics move between jobs more strategically,  with periods of employment, also punctuated by stints in further education.

No alternatives
Portfolio  careers and the wearing of many hats was once  associated with mid- career or older professionals, perhaps after redundancy seeking a better work / life balance,  or  when there were no other options. It was considered a fall back position.  We are now seeing younger  Gen Yers  build up this type of career,  not because they particularly seek an improved quality of life,  but because they have to tap into different parts of their skill sets, simply to  get a job,  any job.   This is also apparent when coaching career changers pursuing MBA courses,  when I have come across a range of skills from Project Management, entrepreneurial roles , to  professional photography,  all in the same student.  The real  challenge is to create an interesting and credible career profile to showcase success stories, transferable skills and  the lessons learned from such diverse backgrounds and interests.

Choice
However, there are people who simply prefer the variety, flexibility and freedom offered by tapping into a wide range of skills, so they choose a wider portfolio career, over a more traditional focused one.  At one time a portfolio career was considered to be higher risk than a corporate role. Today,  I’m not sure that is the case.  Portfolio careers suit disciplined, self motivated people with strong time management skills,  who have a variety of skills and interests,  as well as the drive to go out and market and monetize them. Portfolio careers are also generally associated with adept networkers and can be a great route to gaining experience in a new field, whilst maintaining a part-time role in a traditional job in line with a professional background. Many do just that.

Challenges
The real issue will be for the demographic which doesn’t voluntarily choose this more entrepreneurial style of career strategy.  Flexibility for companies is key, of course, but if organisations aren’t careful,  they can wind up searching for new talent in an alienated and demotivated workforce, which has struggled to gain skills in a wide range of unstructured and less professional environments. It also means a  quantum shift from lazy and uninsightful  “copy / paste” recruitment methodologies, sadly  relied upon by companies and some search consultants alike.