Who are you as a leader? Most people are polite. When we talk about ourselves in our job search, often the listener is politely nodding but really they are thinking “So what?” or “I have no idea what you are trying to say to me.” We walk away thinking we knocked it out of the park and we continue to delude ourselves. Related: 5 Tips For Good Leadership Skills Every month, I facilitate a “power networking” group for Executives in Transition. Not surprisingly, these executives are faced with an intense and highly competitive marketplace that includes larger pools of competing candidates, sparse opportunities, and a talent buyer’s market. I am not sure if its ego or laziness, but time after time, these leaders poorly communicate what they want or need. The most important thing any job seeker, especially a leader, can do to help themselves in the process is take the time to really understand what makes them unique. So often, job candidates don’t have a good grasp on the “Why should we hire you over someone else?” question. In every meeting, we attempt to get the attendees to hone in on exactly that subject. We are almost always met with a boring diatribe that leaves the listener saying “so what?” HR leaders love to say that what makes them unique is that they like to be out among the workers. So? How does that help a company? IT leaders love to say that they understand technology AND business. I have yet to meet a CIO who doesn’t say that. If everyone is saying that, you are not unique. So how do you figure out what makes you different? One of the quickest ways to identify who you are as a leader is to think about 3-5 stories in which you were successful in past positions. Lay them out (on paper) and identify clearly the Challenge you were faced with, the Action that you took, and the Result. We refer to this as the CAR exercise. Frankly, this is a vital step that will help you throughout the job search process. If you clearly understand the value that you can bring to a prospective employer, you will be able to network better, brand yourself better, interview better, and assess your own needs better. Once you do have a handle on what you bring to the table, whittle that down to two or three sentences. A great structure to what you should say is to identify your desired role and then to state what pains you can solve for that employer. It is vital that you be clear and succinct when you are communicating your value statement. I am a firm believer that your 30 second commercial is too long. Know yourself well and state it clearly. A great acronym that we use is the WAIT principle. Why Am I Talking? Another great exercise is to draw a timeline and list out the jobs that you have held. Above the timeline, note what you liked about that role. Below the timeline, note what you disliked about that role. This will help you get a handle on the type of roles you are willing to undertake as well as those you are not. Leaders must be clear on their unique leadership contributions and the types of organizations that respond to it. It’s human nature for any job seeker to take their best strengths for granted and overlook successes. Career transition requires that they take responsibility for re-messaging their core skills to connect to the bona fide and compelling value being offered to the buying audience. Do you have a clear grasp on your value proposition? If not, what is stopping you? I would love to hear your thoughts. This post was originally published at an earlier date.
These days, a job search is much like a sporting event: you practice and hone your skills for that all important match up in the big interview. But what skills do you focus on and how do you prepare for the interviewer’s style of questioning? Practice, bring your tools, and get your head in the game. Related: Tackling The ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question The question I am most often asked is “What advice do you have for an interview?” My answer is consistent: Develop three to five stories from your most recent positions. Put them in the format of the challenge you faced, the action you took and the result of that action. Remember, a company is looking for how you can help them, not the other way around.
In my last article, I covered some basics of LinkedIn networking and I had a really good response. So many people REALLY struggle with networking and I get it. To be honest, when my business partner and I attend a networking event together, she always tells me not to follow her around because she won’t talk to me. I hate that! First and foremost, as an introvert who covers it up well, I would rather have my teeth pulled than network with strangers. However, I find that once I get rolling, it really is no big deal. So, why do so many of us dread networking and how can we work around it? For most of us, if we think about it, we can start by realizing that we find out about jobs, gain clients or make money by knowing the right people. So, how do we meet those right people are? Your “right people” might be completely different than my “right people”. Identify who you need to meet. If you are in transition, you already know that you must have a list of your target companies. Find professional associations and universities in your area that host networking events. Talk to current and former co-workers; try a Chamber of Commerce event. There are many ways to get out there and start meeting the people who can help you move towards your goals. Now, you know where the right people are, why are we so uncomfortable with taking the next step and actually meeting them? For me, i'ts one if not all of the following:
What are the best ways to get a job interview these days? In this economy, I am often asked to how long clients should expect to be in transition. They are often surprised by my answer. It seems to me that because we keep hearing that the economy is slowly getting better, we are lulled into a false sense of security that the job search process isn’t as difficult as it has been for the past few years. According to the Economic Policy Institute Article from November 2012, while the job seekers ratio has held steady at 3.4 job seekers to one job opening, any number over three means that that there are "no jobs available for two out of three workers." I also found it very interesting that the same report states that job seekers far outnumber job openings across every sector. Couple this with persistently low hiring and we are finding that unemployment lengths remain unusually high. Given this less than wonderful news, what can you do to ensure that you are taking all necessary steps to avoid becoming one of the long-term unemployed? Step one is the resume, however, that is merely a step. It's not the whole job search.
It's very important to get the best work performance possible from your employees. But do your employees remember to pack their hearts when they’re packing their lunches? Are they merely going through the motions at work? Feigning “connection to the work” while in reality spending more energy avoiding trouble versus willingly contributing their personal-best? As the leader or manager, how do you create “meaning” at work? Have you heard the story about the custodian in a large federal complex in the suburbs of Houston? He was going about his duties one day when a group of “suits” entered the building where he was working. One of the executives asked the custodian, “So, what do you do here?” The worker smiled and replied genuinely, “I help put a man on the moon.” The VIPs were heading into a meeting with NASA officials that day and happened to run into this dedicated gentleman who truly “got it” — he fully understood his role. It wasn’t simply about cleaning toilets and mopping the floors. His work had true meaning. Because he was faithfully on the job every day, he helped create a spotless, VIP-visit-worthy space where other employees and visitors could enter and concentrate on their work at hand… putting a man on the moon.
Recently, a business acquaintance asked me why our consultants are so good and why our competitors' consultants were not. My response was, it really isn't about the consultants at all. The competition has good consultants as well. It's much more about the business model. When I think about why our consultants are perceived as being better, it may not only be the quality of consultant or education of our consultants, but also the delivery of our model and the fact we make the time to devote to candidates. Our consultants are not servicing 150+ job seekers at a time and our focus is still on the personalized delivery. However, we can’t ignore the increased importance of a virtual delivery system. Our competitors are moving further away from one-on-one delivery and trying to make a buck by delivering career transition services virtually, thereby "saving money” and commoditizing our industry. We often discuss the the question, "Should we be changing our business model to compete in a virtual world?" When I look at the fact that the “big box” providers are all moving in this direction, I am left wondering if they know something that we haven’t discovered. However, when I look at the reality of a virtual model and couple that with the feedback that we receive from those participating in our career transition programs, I become more convinced than ever that while virtual is a complimentary tool, it's not the ideal method to help people find their next opportunity. Obviously, an outplacement firm has to offer “state-of-the-art” technology. We, as well as our competitors, spend a lot of time and money implementing systems that can provide an efficient virtual experience for our career transition clients. We all spend a great deal of time educating the transitioning employees on how to use the system. However, when we look at the candidates who access the online resources available to them, the numbers are quite striking. Less than 20% of all candidates within our system ever log on to start the initial online services. Now remember, our candidates are given the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a dedicated career coach from the beginning. They are choosing to relate with a coach rather than to use the virtual tools. To me, this makes it clear that people would still prefer to have a live person with whom they can touch base than to have a webinar that they can access from their home. After speaking with an ex-executive from a large, national outplacement firm, I was quite surprised to learn that the virtual model is not succeeding as well as the company had hoped. Initially, this seemed a bit shocking as companies adhere to the idea that by eliminating the one-on-one personal training and offering a commoditized product in the shape of virtual career transition programs they will save money. We sincerely understand the need to minimize costs and save money (as cash is king); however, if a company has the resources to provide a cost effective but individualized program, it seems that program is ultimately more helpful to a departing employee. Maybe the virtual model is not all it’s cracked up to be. After all, we are all still human and when faced with a vulnerable, emotional time, it is human nature to reach out to a familiar person and get direction/guidance and advice. What are your thoughts about virtual career transition? Have you been the recipient of one of these programs? I welcome your feedback. Career transition new face image from Shutterstock