An epiphany hit me recently after reading an article about the current status of job loss in Washington State. Reporting “no jobs” does not necessarily mean there is “no work available.” The term “jobless,” doesn’t have to mean “without work.” When I think about it, passively waiting for a job to open up when there is so much work around us to be done may not be the best approach to what could be a dire situation. Too many people are trapped in the mindset that a job is the only way to find income. I think there is another way we all could be looking at a “jobless” economy.
This “ah, ha!” moment happened after a frustrating week of searching for a contractor to replace the bathroom floor in a rental unit. Of the five people I contacted, two said they would call back and never did, another two said the job was too small for them, and one remaining contractor promptly returned my call. After an onsite visit, he committed to doing the work. When the project was completed, the contractor was promptly paid for his work, even though it wasn’t a “job with benefits.” Later, when we found out the carpet also needed to be replaced, the same contractor was given more work.
This experience prompted me to consider everything else that seems to be falling apart around me: my car needs vacuuming, our yard needs attention, the gutters need to be cleaned and our sink needs a new faucet. From what I see all around me, there is still a considerable amount of work that needs to get done, by and for others. This kind of work may not come with a job description, top dollar pay, medical benefits and paid time off, but I am guessing it could produce enough income to equal a paycheck and pay some bills. I’m not saying I have THE answer. It is just another approach that could keep people from tipping completely over.
The exercise of looking for work—compared to looking for a job—is a new concept for some people. It requires a different approach and a different mentality. Rather than spending the day passively looking at job postings, people could proactively invest their time looking for work, which involves talking to people to learn about their companies and “what hurts” or “what is broken.” By listening for business challenges and problems, they can be the first to offer appropriate solutions and be further ahead of those who are just waiting around for a job to be posted online. This is a simple concept, but not necessarily easy to execute. It may require training and additional support to make sure you get the results you are after.
Looking for work is a process that involves focused and intentional networking. Not the kind of random, opportunistic schmoozing that many people consider networking. It is far different than “liking” a friend’s post on Facebook or reaching out to random people on LinkedIn. It requires targeted outcomes, planning and thoughtful execution. If you aren’t finding “work” by reviewing job postings and playing with social media, there’s a good likelihood that you need to alter your mindset. It’s possible that while you search for your next job, the work you discover may even end up leading you to the job you’ve been hoping for.
Nailing the job is just the beginning. It’s always a great celebration when someone lands the role of their dreams. Then the real work begins: keeping it.
Sometimes the joy of securing the role clouds the need to pay attention to what is happening in the moment as time goes on. Complacency may set in. Things get overlooked. Verbal cues are missed. Then things can start to go downhill.
Working with my clients over the expanse of their careers allows the good, the bad and the ugly to surface. In the beginning, we are dedicated to identifying the fit with the best employer, best role and best culture. Unfortunately, things change, and all the ducks that were in a row in the beginning may be thrown completely out of kilter. The situation can turn into a damage control mission to maintain a stable footing in a company or end up in the next big search for an alternative.
It’s critical to keep your eye on the ball. The following are some key points to pay particular attention to if your goal is to stay with an employer and grow with a company.
Pay attention. Make sure that details regarding your deliverables are not slipping through the cracks. A series of little mistakes creates as much of a lasting impression as one BIG mistake. Watch for verbal and nonverbal cues from others when speaking or presenting information. Are people smiling? Are they responsive? If no, then ask what you have missed. Don’t pretend nothing happened.
Avoid complacency. Doing what you always do the same way you always have is no longer good enough. The really valued employees are those that learn, take risks and seek out process improvements. They are always on the lookout for new ways to get things done faster, cheaper. To stay ahead of the pack, you have to deliver more than just enough.
Ask for performance reviews. If your company doesn’t schedule regular performance reviews, ask for one. It is impossible to know what needs fixing if you are unaware that anything is broken. It is impossible to meet invisible expectations. Don’t rely on anyone else to be forthcoming with expectations- it may never happen. Ask!
Document your performance. Perception is everything. You may think you are doing a stellar job. You may even have been told you are doing a stellar job. But unless it is writing, or there is a record of on-time deliverables, perceptions/memories of others down the road can skew what really happened.
Be aware of your image or status with others. Do you know what people think of you? Do you have allies? If you are assuming that you are loved just because you have not been told otherwise, it could be a recipe for disaster. If others are being asked to complete special projects when you are just as capable, it’s time to learn why you are being passed over. If you are being shut out of conversations that lead to changes or decisions when you had previously been included, something is amiss.
Take the initiative to learn and grow. Don’t wait for others to point out mistakes or areas for improvement. Own your errors and make quick recoveries. Take the initiative to learn new skills if you need to. Find others outside of the company to serve as mentors if you need help.
Stay connected to your network. It is easy to get settled into a routine and believe you will never have to look for another job. Don’t be fooled by momentary comfort. The world continues to change and there are no guarantees for anyone’s job security. Your network will keep you on top of what’s new, what’s outdated, relevant needs in other arenas and in-demand skills. Don’t leave your network behind just because you think you have your “dream job”.
Some days, I just shake my head when I watch how people approach their job searches or career planning. After 15 years, I would say I have developed a pretty solid recipe for getting people where they want to go in regard to employment. No matter how many times the process is described by yet another successful candidate (now new employee), someone always thinks there is a short cut and wants to put their own spin on it. It made me think of an analogy that might make it a little clearer:
So, there is a bank in the middle of town, where at the end of the day, a back window was mistakenly left unlocked. No one noticed until three bank robbers wandered by and discovered it. To their amazement, in addition to the window being unlocked, the gates at the front of a long hallway leading to the vault were also wide open, and no external security lights were lit.
Now, one of them just happened to have had a connection inside the branch, and had been able to secure the 57-digit combination to the bank vault a month earlier. Although he had scouted the bank every night for three weeks, this was the first time he had brought his buddies, and the very first time he had come across an unsecured opening. He was really excited because this was the moment he had been waiting for.
It was just before dawn, so they know they need to move quickly. One false move and they could be delayed, which means they should have a greater chance of being seen and getting caught. They discussed what they should do to get inside and how they could best get to the vault in the dark without drawing attention to them. The plan to get to the window and down the hall was anticipated to take 20 minutes. They determined they would only have two minutes to open the vault and three to get back out of the building.
The first robber knew that with a steady hand, and a small pocket flashlight, he could use the combination and get into the vault. The 2nd robber didn’t think they had time to enter all 57 numbers, so he suggested trying a shorter series of numbers to save time. The third robber was pretty confident that with one hit, a sledgehammer would open the vault and they could get out much faster. Their dilemma: should they use the combination or try a shorter sequence of numbers to see if it will open faster? Or should they just use the sledgehammer?
Now, the choice may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t much different from the scenarios I see when time after time, candidates apply for higher level roles only because of a title and promise of more money, or job seekers resort to passive searches. To clarify, a passive search is when someone trolls for job postings and throws their hat in the ring. They may even use the same overstated, nonspecific resume for every “interesting” position they see, thinking “more is better”. Or, maybe they end up reviewing many job board sites and even tailor their resumes a little each time, thinking that will make all the difference this time. After all, researching and networking to learn what companies actually need takes time, doesn’t it?
Regardless of the quality of the resume and cover letter sent, a passive search is one that instantly puts someone in competition with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of candidates. It makes the odds closer to one in a zillion that they are the “fit” the employer is looking for, or the culture is what the candidate is looking for. Even though the resume may get them into a conversation, and once there, they are still at a disadvantage over someone who knows about the company from the inside. A passive search won’t reveal the insight needed to know what to say in an interview. And these days, candidates just aren’t going to be successful if they try to bluff their way through.
All in all, blindly applying for roles that have no more clarity than the badly worded job description found on a job board makes it pretty tough to know what you are up against, what is really needed or what will be necessary to say to be competitive. The desire to shorten the process by doing less, or waiting for that one “perfect” opening to show up, makes it less and less likely someone will close in on the position of their dreams.
If you have been reading my blogs, then you know by now that the methodology I promote is to investigate prior to applying, through networking. By digging up leads and reaching out for conversations with people that already work for an organization, or in a specific department, a candidate is much more likely to get some traction. They are also much more likely to have time to develop stories that use past examples of their work to illustrate similarities with the company/department/role they have researched and have targeted.
No need for sledgehammers. The winning combination is: using information to illuminate the way + being ready to pursue a need (even before it is announced) + tailoring your resume for the specific need + investing in careful preparation for the interview. It’s not the fast way- but it is a proven way to get where you want to go.
The internet is seductive. It is so much easier to believe it holds the answers to life’s mysteries, than to imagine what it would be like without it. Granted, it really does hold a HUGE amount of information, but it still cannot replace our feelings, values or perceptions of what we hold dear. You might be thinking: what in the world does this have to do with business? And I would have to say: almost everything.
Whether you are looking for candidates, employers or service providers, making assumptions about their ability to fill a need can get you in hot water if those assumptions are not checked out. Trusting the words without evidence can backfire. Leveraging established relationships with trusted resources can help point a candidate to the right company, an employer to the properly skilled and personality matched candidate and a customer to the right service provider. In order for the recipe to work, each source needs to be accurate about their skills or needs and stop relying on “key words” as the answer.
Relying solely on information and processes devoid of real human connections tends to leave us at a disadvantage when we are attempting to build relationships. Although the written word can explain a great deal, proof comes from observable action. It is the evidence of consistent behavior that builds trust in relationships. Being able to thoroughly articulate skills/abilities, then substantiating them with evidence goes much further than using “key words” or SEO to get someone’s attention.
Candidates that are unclear about their direction or are unable to articulate their value accurately may end up in roles that are a complete mismatch. Likewise, employers that inaccurately or incompletely describe the roles they need to fill may end up wasting considerable time trying to identify the correct solution. A company that describes a culture that is contrary to what people actually experience is another source of potential conflict. The internet can provide a vehicle, but passively using it as the destination without digging for input from real, live people can lead to huge wastes of time and resources.
Although a profile can present descriptions of a person’s competence or skills, and a website can expound on an organization’s culture, learning about real life perceptions of a situation or actions requires a conversation. The proof of the pudding comes from people that have engaged with the person or business in question. It requires advance research over time, not a click and a quick connection. Passing on referrals or chasing job postings because “key words” sound familiar is insufficient. To thoroughly understand the needs of all parties and make real matches requires more thoughtful evaluation; otherwise it ends up the same as throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
If you have been engaged in a passive search (mining databases for job postings), or if you are a recruiter relying on databases to solve your staffing needs, or if you have a business and are trying to find the right customers, it might be time to take a different course:
- Try asking tough questions of hiring managers, team members and customers to learn what’s really under the surface before you proceed. Find out where the real pain is generating from.
- Get out and talk to people, or should I say, listen to people. Networking is more than schmoozing. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask people at networking events.
- Show interest and concern. It isn’t all about you.
- Pay attention to what people/companies need before you ask for something or try to “sell” something.
- Help others. Find ways to pay it forward.
If you have received a job announcement from a recruiter that had nothing to do with your skill set, a resume from a candidate with few skills related to your needs, or spam from a business offering a service that you nor anyone in your network would be interested in buying in a million years, then I think you know what I am talking about.
Tell them to stop throwing spaghetti at the wall.
Many people seem to believe networking is only about visibility, i.e., the more people that know of you, the more successful you are. Visibility to a targeted audience may come through a dressed up LinkedIn profile, personal website, Facebook page, resume or through conversation (blog, group post or in person), but it doesn’t automatically result in “relationship”. Nor does visibility necessarily lead to an accurate representation of a promise or the development of trust.
Effective referrals tend to be based on trust and the existence of a relationship that is deeper than a superficial social networking connection. A referral is typically most useful when the referring party can speak first hand to the skills or behavior of the referred party. The referring person needs to trust that the referred person can provide what has been promised. Additionally, there is a level of trust assumed by the 3rd party that the referring person will represent the referred person with accuracy. To develop trust of this nature, there must be evidence of consistent, repetitive behavior that is witnessed over time.
What sometimes gets overlooked by those asking for referrals is the need to model behavior that matches what has been promised. It’s been my experience that many times the words reflecting someone’s value proposition are nothing more than a hyped marketing pitch. The actual behavior exhibited by more than a few people is an extreme contrast to the promise.
Examples of the most notable conflicts I encounter are project managers that consistently miss deadlines or arrive late for meetings, accounting professionals that are delinquent with payments and writers that submit materials with grammatical errors and typos. Each time I observe behavior of this type (and I see this pretty frequently) I wonder what in the world they are thinking. Regardless of the verbal promise, the evidence developed through actual behavior is much more reliable. Ultimately, a person saying one thing and doing another develops a roadblock that may be impassable.
When your targeted audience observes behavior that is inconsistent with the brand that is represented through spoken words or with content in a profile or website, the seed of disbelief is planted. From that point forward, mistrust can develop quickly. In many cases, as the erosion of trust begins and mistrust grows, it may not even be articulated or acknowledged for some time. The result may be shown through passive, non action, as evidenced by reluctance to help or share information.
If you are in the market for a new or better job, or need more customers, make sure the promise offered in your branding materials is one that can be evidenced in your behavior each and every day.
The following examples are types of behaviors to be conscious of:
Project Management: Are you on time to meetings? Are you able to easily access information? Do you appear to be organized when asked for data? How well do you negotiate change? Coordinate groups?
Engineering: How well do you solve problems? Show evidence of persistence or due diligence? How well do you follow directions?
Technology: Are you able to find solutions to other’s issues quickly? Are your skills up to date? How well are you able to communicate technical concepts to nontechnical audiences?
Marketing: How clear and concise are your communications? Is your work error free? Are you able to creatively solve problems? Do you engage easily with others? Do you have a website or portfolio of written work ready when asked for samples?
Sales: Do you ask questions that will lead to further conversation when networking? Get commitments from people who promise information? Set times for following up? Deliver on promises? Find solutions for problems? Manage relationships? Are you reliable? Do you have a strong network?
Service/Support: Do you arrive to meetings or events on time? Do you look for ways to help others? Do you offer to help others or wait until asked? Are your communications on time, clear and complete?
Human Resources/Recruiting: Do you show an interest or concern for others? How well do you solve problems? Do you respond to communications from others in a timely way or with sensitivity? Do you listen for hidden meanings in conversations? Have strong relationships/networks to reply on?
If you are not “walking the talk”, it’s time to get conscious about what people see. If you have experienced a situation when the “promise didn’t match the brand”, please tell us about it and include the outcome.
How many times have you really knocked yourself out with extensive preparation for an interview or a proposal and learned you came in “Number 2”? It may only have been because the other candidate or company had a desired credential or specific experience you couldn’t match and the employer was forced to choose. Don’t let all your effort go to waste, especially if your research tells you that you really are a great fit for a company.
Here are some great reasons to stay in touch with interviewers/potential employers or business opportunities:
- Often times, employers believe they have made the best hiring decision, only to later learn the candidate (or supplier) exaggerated when describing their abilities or their interest in the role (or project). Typically, when there has been a misrepresentation of skill level or interest by the chosen candidate, it will be exposed pretty quickly – certainly within the first ninety days of employment. When the employer’s number one choice turns out to be a mistake, they probably won’t be looking forward to beginning their search from scratch all over again. Imagine how cool it would be for all parties if you were still in touch with them and were ready to step in!
- After grueling rounds of interviews the employer’s decision is often a tough one for them to make. They may have wanted you both but were forced to choose. In that case, you can bet if they had the opportunity to hire you for another position that was an equally good fit, they would! They won’t necessarily think of asking you about a different role if you haven’t made a point of expressing a strong interest in the company.
- All too frequently opportunities are missed because either the candidate or employer is mistakenly thinking the situation is “all or nothing” for the candidate (or supplier). If the candidate (or contractor) makes an effort to stay in touch and the need to change, add to staff, or start a new project arises again down the road, the employer is likely to be pretty excited about saving the effort of going through the entire process. If you haven’t made a point of staying in touch, an employer may not contact you because they assume you have already been snapped up by another organization. (And, maybe you have!)
The key to taking advantage of all of the effort you invested in researching and preparing is in remaining visible and being open to the conversation. You just never know.
This scenario played out many times throughout my experience as a recruiter and also with my clients in transition. It often happens with business opportunities I am presented with, as well. Please share if this has ever happened to you.
Networking is typically the best way to learn about new opportunities, whether it is work related or otherwise. But random efforts produce random results. If you are not getting the results you had hoped for by attending events or “hanging out” with friends, then perhaps your preparation for those meetings needs a little work.
Being open and available to meet new contacts is a large part of what it takes to become aware of new opportunities, although your encounters may be unplanned or unexpected. In order to capitalize on every situation that might spring up, it is important to map out a plan, be clear about your expectations in advance and prepare questions that will actually produce helpful and appropriate information. The following steps are likely to result in more fruitful exchanges.
Have a clear goal. If you are going into conversation or meetings with people with the idea that they will “hit on” a solution for you or read your mind, you are probably not coming away with much. Setting clear goals, then identifying the objectives needed to achieve those goals, will provide you with much clearer information to help you determine what you actually need to know or learn from someone.
Prepare in advance for new connections. When using Linkedin or other social networking sites with intent beyond connecting to as many people as possible, you will be much more likely to produce favorable results. Having hundreds of new connections won’t make things happen for you unless you are clear about what you need and what you can offer. Being prepared with a specific request for information or expressing a sincere interest in meeting someone is much more likely to get a favorable response when asking for an introduction to a new contact.
Know what you don’t know. While that sounds like a contradiction, it isn’t really. If you set out to identify a solution without thinking through what it might require, then you will be all over the map. You could pot shot potential options and end up missing the mark entirely. Develop targets first (companies, customers or projects) and identify what you would need to know to be able to have a successful exchange with anyone connected with your target. By knowing what you need to learn, you are in a better position to solicit helpful inside information that can contribute to the development of a strategy to proceed on track.
Strategize. Developing a strategy and working through a carefully thought out plan typically produces a better outcome than wishing and hoping. Sure, miracles can happen. Great timing can look like a miracle. But if you haven’t had your miracle happen yet, then maybe it is time to develop a plan. Information is power, and the more you know about your target, the more you will know about how to position yourself to get where you want to be. Just ‘knowing’ someone or ‘being acquainted with’ someone isn’t enough to turn into a hot lead. Be clear about what your contacts need to know about you. Be clear about what you need to know about your contacts so your communications are appropriate and relevant.
Set the stage. Introduce yourself with a prepared statement that gives people enough information to act on your behalf without putting them to sleep. Memorize it. Know what you need to convey, in words that communicate what you would want someone to remember. Too much info will result in them forgetting most of what you said. Funny, cute and clever may get someone’s attention, but unless they have more time to learn the rest, they won’t know what they need to remember to be able to help you.
Prepare thoughtful questions. Take the time to prepare thoughtful questions of the people you encounter. Practice them enough to ensure they are on the tip of your tongue, so that you are not blurting out “do you know of any openings” or “can you refer a customer to me” before the person even knows anything about you.
Follow up. Meeting new people, but dropping the ball by failing to follow up, can end up wasting everyone’s time and energy. Make sure you take the time to follow up after every meeting or conversation in a professional and timely way, even if it was a casual or social event. Leaving a lasting impression through genuine interest and responsiveness is a good way to develop productive relationships.
Please share what you have done to prepare for networking events that has worked out well.
By the time this blog is read, the Washington State “snow days” of January 2012 may be long behind us. Still, the concepts can be applied when you encounter airport closures, canceled conferences/meetings/concerts or when someone gets cold feet and pulls out of a wedding. The intent of this is not to suggest you micromanage your time to the degree of being inflexible, but to help you gain control over your time and make better choices when unplanned events create havoc.
The notion came to me when I was forced to reschedule presentations, workshops and meetings over the course of four days due to our city being almost paralyzed by snow and ice this week. (Ok, I’ll have to insert this bit of info: Seattleites are light weights. We rarely have snow or sub freezing temperatures, have lots of hills and pretty much can’t drive safely under extreme conditions. The result is that many people become housebound and services often come to a screeching halt).
As I was playing chess with my events and coordinating with the several groups of people involved regarding the rescheduling, I discovered some very interesting dynamics. None bad, just interesting. Many of the people I tried to reach by email did not respond at all. Now, it was possible their power could be out, so I decided to try calling. As it turns out, since many people’s employers were not requiring them to come in, they took the day off (literally) and were not checking email at all. Their having a day off from work turned into being “off” from everything for them.
Taking time off from everything can be a reasonable choice, if your goal is to achieve work/life balance. I am all for that. An interesting coincidence I found however was that many of the people who had taken time off from everything, were also folks that have regularly complained about never having time to network or pursue their career goals. They had been given “free” days; days without commitments and no expectations. Yet several chose to use the time to “disconnect” and “disengage” rather than “connect” and “engage” in activities that could have easily moved them closer to their goals. For others, the time was a great opportunity to connect with people electronically. I was pleased to learn that just as many people I reached were taking advantage of the free time to catch up. The contrast prompted me to consider the dynamics of each approach.
It struck me that many people get so caught up in feeling “out of control” they completely throw in the towel when free time is offered and don’t consider the choices they have. Unfortunately, without “contingency plans” for free time, it’s much easier to fall back on old habits or simply take a vacation. (If a vacation is needed, excellent!) But if the drudgery of a painful workplace or an unfulfilling career is still waiting to be faced when someone returns to a normal schedule, then it’s probably reasonable to say the unexpected “vacation” could have been better used.
You might be thinking: “If I don’t know when these events happen, how can I plan for them?” My answer is: It isn’t as important to know exactly when something will happen as it is to develop a plan for how you will react when it does. It’s kind of like earthquake preparedness. If we wait for catastrophic events to occur to move us to action, we will operate as victims, not as owners of our situations. If we prepare in advance by thinking out potential courses of action, we simply give ourselves more choices and have more power in moving ourselves in the direction we want to go.
Here are some ways to make your unexpected free time serve you better:
- Clearly define your goals.
- Set time frames for accomplishing your goals to build your accountability.
- Break all of your goals into measurable objectives.
- List all of the tasks required to achieve your objectives and goals.
- Be prepared to tackle your list of tasks ahead of schedule when free time is an option.
If getting your office cleaned out is a goal, then taking free time to tackle one small area at a time could help you build momentum. If losing weight is a goal, then using unexpected free time to exercise could help you lose more weight, sooner. (Shoveling snow is a great calorie burner!)
If finding a new employer, changing careers or building a business is included in your goals, then networking will be an important key to your success. Being prepared with a list of whom you need to contact and scripts for what you need to ask/say will allow you to jump on free time and make it work for you. (Look for more information on networking to achieve your goals in other posts).
These gifts of minutes, hours and days are exactly what could make the difference between moving forward and staying stuck where you are. The choice is yours.
What did you do on your last snow day?
Years ago, we created “catchy” resumes, using sophisticated language, printing them on colored paper or even having them delivered by singing messengers to get the attention of the decision maker. Life, work and the pursuit of employment have changed since then. When sent in response to a job announcement, the chance of a resume directly reaching the decision maker without going through a screening process is slim to none. “Catchy” has been replaced with “targeted” and “to the point”. People spend many hours trying to break the recruiter’s or human resource specialist’s code to determine what will catch their eye. It seems the real value a resume offers to a candidate may get overlooked in the process of becoming “catchy” or “cute” or packed with “key words”.
An article on resumes recently hit my inbox. It started with “The purpose of a resume is to land an interview. Nothing more, nothing less.” I couldn’t disagree more. Resumes serve a greater purpose than “getting your foot in the door”. A carefully composed resume will not only nail each requirement stated in the job announcement, it will encompass the unpublished information learned through networking or conducting informational interviews. The process of researching and collecting the appropriate data for your resume does more than catch someone’s eye. It is one of the most important steps in preparing you for an interview. After all, getting in the door is not your final goal. Getting the offer is.
It has been said that a crafty, eye-catching resume is all that is needed to get your foot in the door for an interview. That may be so. Then what? How many times have you heard of a person having interview after interview, but never receives any offers? There is likely to be a good reason for that, and there is a good chance it can be tracked all the way back to their resume.
Candidates have learned how to effectively include the correct key words to catch an electronic or human eye. It is a very likely reality that whether it is a machine or a person hired to screen resumes, the screener may not know or understand the intent of the words or their relevance to the person’s experience and abilities. In an age where technology often does the selection process, it is quite likely that key words identified in a resume draw a candidate into the screening process, and in fact, may propel them all the way to a face-to-face interview. It is at that point their bluff is called, and the momentum dies. What is missing in this scenario is the ability for those candidates to apply the key words in any meaningful way once they have actually begun the interview.
One of the greater purposes of a well-crafted resume is more for the benefit of the candidate, rather than the employer. If a candidate has selected language that is used by the employer, and included specific examples of accomplishments that are relevant to the employer’s needs, there is a far greater chance the candidate will be able to use this information to their advantage during an interview. If the candidate has thoughtfully considered each piece of information included in the resume, and qualified and quantified their examples, then they most certainly have done the hardest part of the preparation required to succeed in the interview. Without completing the connections between their experiences and the employer’s needs long in advance of the interview, their ability to present that information in a meaningful way and effectively lead the employer directly to those same conclusions during an interview is vastly limited. By using only relevant examples of experience, being very clear about why they have been selected for inclusion in the resume, a candidate has built the framework for the impending conversation. The candidate, not the employer, in essence, can control the conversation. The resume is used as the “agenda” or a “cheat sheet’ for the candidate.
A well-constructed resume will include qualified and quantified information spoken in plain language that is relevant to the industry, and easy enough to understand by the lowest level screener. You must pass “go” before you move to the next level. Beyond being clear, the information provided is also an opportunity to begin building your value. Never assume that past titles or general statements will imply value, or secure a whopping salary.
Concrete, relevant examples of your work will help lay the groundwork for more extensive conversations in the interview. It will also serve as reference for the human resource representative, recruiter or decision maker at a later date when they are tasked with presenting you with an offer. Beyond using a resume as a focus point for an interview, it is also the first documentation required in establishing a candidate’s worth to the employer, and a key ingredient in an effective negotiation. Many companies have steps or grades in their salary ranges, and the human resource department determines the actual level a candidate is hired in at rather than the hiring manager. A carefully designed resume establishes proof for requesting a higher level when it is time to negotiate salary. By responding to each point identified in a detailed job announcement created by the employer, the candidate is able to clearly identify examples of their experience that support a higher level in the pay scale. By outlining clear, specific information that is directly relevant to their needs, you have begun the groundwork for a negotiation for compensation that is in the top of their pay range, or even beyond.
It is with careful planning and listening, that a candidate can parlay the information presented in the resume into answers to tough interview questions, and ultimately into evidence of why they should be at the high end of a pay scale. Without proof, reassurance, and facts, a request for negotiating more compensation is a long shot. By providing evidence from start to finish, a candidate is far more likely to negotiate a greater offer. Your request will be based on the market conditions, the company’s needs and how well you fit them, supported by factual evidence. In this market, high salaries are not effectively negotiated just because a candidate “looks good” or was able to “schmooze” his/her way through an interview. Employers rely on evidence that you will be worth what you are asking. That value begins to build the moment they read your resume.
How well is your resume working for you?
An interesting point was made during my networking group’s recent discussion about how to stay in touch with people in our network. As I was offering some techniques I personally use to stay in touch with my network, someone blurted out: “But that’s your job!” Her point was that as a coach, it was my job to keep in touch with people that could assist my clients, it was my job to stay in touch with people that could provide industry insight, and it was my job to stay connected. I think you can catch the drift here. Others in the room began to giggle a bit and someone else retorted: “Networking is a part of all of our jobs!”
To many, networking has been viewed as a mandatory activity for sales people but perhaps as an extracurricular option for others, or an activity only to be pursued when a person is in between jobs. Somewhere the paradigm has shifted and many people now recognize it has become a mandatory part of everyday life for anyone in the workplace. Others have jumped on the social media bandwagon believing that “exposure” is the answer to unemployment or career development. Exposure isn’t the entire answer. Networking for effective results is really not that simple.
Social networking has prompted the medium for getting connected, but there is still a need for coaching around the concepts of why we need to be connected and how to develop or nurture new or existing relationships. Using social media to build exposure is one approach. But simple exposure does not develop relationships and does not develop trust. Relationships develop over time, not with a click and a connection. Developing relationships requires an awareness of a purpose and having an objective, followed by thoughtful communications that will support that objective.
It seems many jobseekers are under the impression that having mass visibility will not only get them a job, but that they will also automatically be happy with it. My assessment is that much like the rush to use career databases to post resumes years ago, the mad rush to use social networking sites to build visibility with the assumption that a passive approach leads to “happy ever after”, is just as unrealistic. Vast exposure with no plan or strategy is no more effective in developing rewarding results than the popular method of shot-gunning 500 resumes to random businesses was in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.
The belief that visibility is the answer is misguided, as it is only a piece of the puzzle. Visibility means others can find you. It doesn’t mean that you will be prepared for the conversation when it is initiated, or that you will have the faintest idea of what you might be getting into when invited to interview with a company you may not have heard of an hour before the contact. Social networking can be a recruiter’s dream; easy access to more and more candidates. Conversely, the candidates that are contacted are at the mercy of the person reaching them. They are more likely to be caught off guard, unaware, unprepared and put in a position to act on something they had not enough time or information about to consider a reasonable approach. Flattering? Perhaps. Productive? Not necessarily. Certainly not as much as one would hope for.
There is a connection between the “job” of staying in touch with your network and making yourself visible through social networks. It is important to ensure your visibility creates the kinds of opportunities that are consistent with your goals. And, that your visibility is supported by the strength of your trusted relationships. By staying in touch with people that are able to share insight about your areas of interest, you are much more likely to have some semblance of composure or clear context the next time you are randomly contacted by an unknown recruiter.