Which Surgeon Would You Hire?

While in the emergency room clutching your chest, you’re presented with three heart surgeons. Your very existence is on the line and you have to choose one of the three to hire for your procedure. Before you make your selection you get to ask one question.

The question…”Why should I hire you to operate on me?”

Surgeon #1: “I’m a detail-oriented, team player with good listening skills and the ability to see the big picture.”

Surgeon #2: “I’m an award winning chef known for my knife skills. I have a variety of culinary certifications and an assortment of  quality cutlery that’s sharp and ready to go. I’ve done more with roasts, but don’t worry. I can do this. ”

Surgeon #3: “Sir, you are having a heart attack and need an experienced surgeon to stabilize your heart, remove the obstruction, repair resulting damage and properly close the surgical site. I’ve been operating on hearts like yours for over a decade and have successfully navigated each step of the process. As proof, I have a long list of healthy and living patients to show for my efforts. I’m board certified, patient approved, competent & experienced in your very area of need and able to make my operating room available to you immediately.”

If those were your 3 options, which would you hire?  I hope you’d pick Surgeon #3.

Guess what, the reasoning that lead you to Surgeon #3 is the same reasoning employers use to choose their next employee. When you’re selling yourself to employers in their moment of need, which surgeon are you? If your argument isn’t as convincing as Surgeon #3 your chance of landing the job you want is DOA.

Make The Call!

A good friend called me today. Moments earlier a recruiter had informed her she wouldn’t be advancing in the process for a job she thought she had a good shot of landing. She’d interviewed well in the first round, was a point-by-point match in terms of experience and had connections to key employees in executive management roles. One of the Vice Presidents who interviewed her even hinted he looked forward to meeting her again as a finalist.

The rejection was unexpected and shocking. It’s hard enough to get news like this in situations when you’re going in cold and missing some of the requirements. Hearing “no thanks” when so much seems to be in your favor is awful. It’s one of those experiences that could easily drain the momentum from a job search and inspire emotions that make you more inclined to assume the fetal position than kick out another resume.

It’s possible my friend assumed the fetal position for a minute or two. She didn’t say and I didn’t ask. Sometimes you need a moment of grief to move forward.

What I do know is, whatever hurt and doubts she felt, she didn’t surrender her job search to them for long. She picked up the phone and called me. She didn’t mince words. “I got a rejection today that’s really thrown me and I need you to build me back up.” My assignment was clear and I took it seriously. We talked for a while and both came to the realization there were still things that could be done with this situation. We also moved on to talk about another opportunity she’s been preparing for.

By the time we got off the phone, my friend was in a better place. The sting was still there. Of course it was. The opportunity meant something to her. The rejection was no longer in danger of derailing her search, however. She reached out to someone who she trusted could insert objectivity back into her thoughts.

Everyone who is trying to navigate a search in this economic climate needs to do two things. One, identify that go-to person to call when the going gets rough. Two, make the call! Knowing who you should call does little good if failures and setbacks are internalized. Pick up the phone and tell the person you’ve designated as your “kick me out of this slump” wing man the truth.

Value Yourself!

Today I’ve got to talk about Diane…not her real name.

Diane is a wonderful woman with a solid professional background. I met her recently at a networking event. I sat beside her, actually. She immediately struck me as professional, smart and kind. During that meeting I was impressed enough to suggest she contact a company I might be able to help her gain some traction with.

Shortly after that meeting Diane did the right thing and followed-up with me so she could figure out the best way to move forward with my suggestion. Her call landed in my voice mail. When I played her message, her introduction made me want to weep.

“Hi Lisa. You probably don’t remember me. This is Diane. I met you at the (blank) group…” Probably don’t remember her?!?! How could I not remember her? She sat right beside me…3 days prior. We had a conversation.

So here is this fabulous woman who either doubts  my memory capabilities or, as I suspect is the real problem, doesn’t value herself enough to believe she’s memorable.

Diane is hardly alone. I get the same type of lead-in on emails and voice mail messages frequently. So many of the job seekers I encounter are struggling to believe they could possibly matter to others. This economy has done a number on the egos of countless professionals. The trouble is, once individuals convince themselves they aren’t valuable to others, they are susceptible to having those thoughts affect their actions. They pull back on applying for jobs that seem out of reach. They refrain from reaching out to people in influential circles because they are concerned about wasting those individuals’ time.

Perhaps Diane’s choice of words was a one time slip. Hard to say. What I want her to know is that I do indeed remember her. The impression she gave me from the start was solid. If she has any doubt in her mind that people she meets will hold on to the fact they did so, she can stomp on it. It doesn’t belong in her job search. She can skip the “you may not remember me” with the next person she follows up with.

Wrong Answer In The DIY Generation

What do you mean you don’t know something because no one has ever shown you before? It’s 2011! DIY isn’t just a home improvement trend, it’s a culture shift. When someone tries to pin their lack of understanding of something on others not taking the time to get them up to speed I have to do a quick check of the mirror to make sure my eyes aren’t squiggling around too much in frustration.

Other people are not responsible for your enlightenment. Sure, they can be involved in helping you learn new things, but they are not the ones ultimately accountable for your professional relevance. You are! Considering the abundance of inexpensive resources available these days (many even free) there is no excuse not to get on board the DIY bandwagon and teach yourself what you need to get to where you want to go.

Over the past few years most of the new things I’ve learned have come from my own efforts. Curiosity led to exploration. Exploration led to experimentation. Experimentation led to understanding. I’ve learned all sorts of things from books, You Tube, Google, playing around and getting nosy with friends & acquaintances. I consider myself to be a decent blogger, Twitter/LinkedIn user, turkey chef, parent, PowerPoint presenter, Angry Bird master, etc…all self-taught.

I’m not special. I know lots of people who can  make the same claim. My concern is for those who can’t…those who are in the habit of waiting for others to prompt them to learn something and then see to their eventual education. It matters for a couple of reasons. For one, if you’re not putting the responsibility to learn new things squarely on your shoulders, who else is there who cares enough about your success to own the process? Second, how do you convince employers you can take initiative on their behalf when you’ve failed to do so on your own? Third, when those in the habit of trying to teach themselves new things are on the receiving end of excuses from those waiting for others to lead the way, the impression isn’t great.

Are there things in this world we can’t teach ourselves? Sure. But much of what I see holding people back doesn’t fit in that category.

Need to learn software? Buy a Lynda.com training subscription for $35 for a month and train from home, go to your local library to practice, install the software on your own computer and practice by trying to recreate your junk mail, etc.

Need to understand social media applications? Watch some You Tube videos, read articles on the applications, check out the appropriate “How to (blank) for Dummies” book, use the “help” function on the actual website, attend free workshops in your community and ask friends known to be users.

Need to figure out how to write grants? Google grant writing, attend an evening college class on the subject, volunteer for a non-profit willing to expose you to the process, print out existing grants to review content/format and network with those who write grants for recommendations.

The list goes on…

If you haven’t embraced the DIY movement, it’s going to leave you in the dust.

The 97.7%

Don’t panic! This isn’t one of “those” posts.

Did you hear the news last week? According to a report, 97.7% of all businesses in the United States have fewer than 100 employees. Small businesses are much more plentiful than the big guys. If you want to see G. Scott Thomas’ original article in “The Business Journals,” you can find it here.

Logic dictates job seekers might have more luck chasing companies from this enormous pool of options than  joining the millions who pile on top of the larger companies with more recognizable brands. Why are so many remiss to do so? I’ve found it comes down to 3 things.

  1. Jobs with small businesses are harder to find online. Big companies are more likely to post their openings in easy to find places. They can afford to post on Monster & Career Builder. They have fancier websites with  job portals. They have the type of infrastructure that can handle the influx of applications visible recruitment efforts generate. With so many job seekers relying heavily job boards for job leads, opportunities with small businesses are missed.
  2. Candidates have concerns about the stability, growth potential, compensation plans and culture of smaller companies. Assumptions and broad generalizations are made without making the effort to get to know each company individually. The irony is the fact small businesses have the same concerns about many displaced professionals. They aren’t sure how long they’ll stick around, don’t know if they can learn skills beyond what they have, assume they’ll be too expensive and worry they can’t adapt to their their culture. The risk is on both sides, folks, and common ground can be found in accepting that truth.
  3. The sense is the big  names carry more professional weight. Professionals like to work for recognizable firms. Having a name like Kraft or Microsoft on a resume gets the attention of future employers. Unless, of course, the big name company turns out to be Enron or Arthur Andersen. The thought big names give candidates more selling power has some truth. Especially for those hoping to remain in big business. It’s not an absolute truth, however. It’s a fair guess the 97.7% who identify themselves as small businesses are going to have a positive view of small business environments. Also, candidates with experience in smaller firms may have a broader range of responsibilities to sell from.

No matter your reason for not giving small businesses the attention they deserve in your job search, consider what could be gained from taking the time to make sure the big names aren’t dominating your efforts. Joining the majority of job seekers who are chasing 2.3% of businesses doesn’t sound like a winning strategy.


Nix “Something” & “Anything”

If I had the power stop those I work with from saying two words, the words would be “something” and “anything.” Why? Too often, when I ask people to describe what they are looking for, I get lines like this…

  • Something where I get to work with people.
  • Something stable.
  • Something where I can put my skills to use.
  • I’m pretty flexible, so just about anything.
  • Something in management.
  • Something entry level.
  • Something where I’m appreciated.

Gee, that helps. You’re groaning right along with me, right? “Something” and “anything” essentially tell me nothing. Is it any wonder those who are littering their networking contacts with a bunch of nothing get nothing in return?

What are you looking for? Seriously. What?! Paint a mental picture for others so they have something tangible to go by. Finding a job is important and requires you take care to describe what you are looking for in a meaningful way. So ditch the “something” and “anything” descriptors. Challenge yourself to be more specific. Your networking contacts will thank you for doing so and you’ll appreciate boost of momentum your search gains.


Dumb Questions Do Exist

Whoever came up with “there’s no such thing as a dumb question” lied. Dumb questions most certainly exist. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end of my fair share of them for years.

It’s not that the individual having a question is dumb. It is more the individual’s choice to pose a question to me when, strategically, they could easily obtain the information by other means and use their time with me to discuss more valuable content.

Many job seekers take the time to make sure the questions they ask in interviews are meaningful. Most now know asking about things they could have researched themselves, like asking what the company does, is taboo. The trouble often lies in the conversations people have outside of the interview room. The same courtesy isn’t afforded. These could be conversations with networking sources, family members, friends, co-workers, supervisors, mentors, professors…the list goes on.

We’ve become a culture of immediate gratification. I suspect that’s part of the reason many have become sloppy detectives. When a question pops in our head, we blurt it out without first asking ourselves if the information is something we could get on our own, or considering what we might miss out on discussing with the individual because we’ve used their time to drill them on basic stuff.

I’ll tell you a secret, it drives most people nuts when they can’t cover more meaningful things, things that need to be addressed, because others are laying the responsibility to help them get up to speed on the basics on their shoulders.

It has become the norm to expect those who are more knowledgeable to come down to the speed or level of those less knowledgeable. That’s a huge tactical error. All learn more from others when the knowledgeable person is able to talk about big picture concepts and leave it to those attempting to learn something to research the minutia. Consider the following. No one in his right mind would spend time with Steve Jobs asking him to explain what a gigabyte is or to share the new color options for the iPhone. These are the kinds of questions Google is waiting to help people with. Use it!

My challenge to everyone is to start taking notes of questions you have as they come, no matter who you are talking with. Doesn’t matter if it’s a physical note or mental note. The second thing you need to do is take stock of those you are speaking with when questions pop up. Pretend, although it’s not really pretending, you have a limited supply of information you could possibly get from each person. Weigh the questions you have and consider if posing them to that person, at that time, is really the best use of the situation. All involved will thank you for doing so!

Let me close this message by assuring those I’m working with that I love questions. I really and truly do. I would gladly answer questions all day long. Like everyone else, my time is limited. I feel I have so much to share, so much to offer, if you let me. The goal is to get you working a.s.a.p. That means you need your A game in terms of making the best use of every interaction you have with people. If you’ve got bad habits in terms of firing basic questions at me, you’re likely doing the same with others. It significantly limits what you have the potential to learn and slows down progress. Don’t squander time spent with others. Don’t treat any contact like your own personal Google search engine.


What The Winners Have In Common

Most who read my blog posts are looking for some nugget of wisdom that will help them generate positive results from a job search. I thought it might be a good idea to share some observations of what those who  have recently landed jobs have in common.

So here goes…

  1. They have magnetism. They have a positive outlook and demeanor that makes them approachable and pleasant to be around. Logic dictates an individual is more likely to land a job if the prospective employer actually enjoys the thought of being in his company 40+ hours per week for the foreseeable future. Seriously, who wants to be in the trenches with others who are negative, boring, pest like and more focused on problems than solutions? “Not I,” said the spider to the fly.
  2. They network. They reach out to others consistently and effectively in search of opportunity. When potential employment options present themselves, they reach out to their network again seeking additional insight and connections that might increase the odds of a successful outcome. Firing off a resume in response to an internet ad without making some well placed phone calls first is unheard of.
  3. They are busy. Activity in a job search is a must. Those with more balls in the air at any given time end up with more options. The lottery people like to say, “you can’t win if you don’t play.” Well, the same can be said for a job search. Those who don’t play the game and make sure they are networking regularly and applying to multiple positions relevant to their background per week aren’t going to hit the jackpot.
  4. They have a clear understanding of what they are willing and able to do. It’s okay to be little and not know what you want to be when you grow up. If you’re a displaced worker who needs to land a job, like yesterday, not having a clear idea of what jobs you are chasing is unacceptable. You can’t aim at and hit a target that isn’t defined. Not to mention, job seekers who aren’t sure what to do next often end up leaving prospective employers not sure what to do with them.
  5. They move past rejection quickly. Yes, getting a no thank you letter from a company you really want to work for is the pits. That said, dwelling on the hurt does no good. Too often job seekers dedicate much more time to trying to win over or get a response out of those who aren’t interested than focusing on finding individuals receptive to engaging with them. Maintaining forward momentum and keeping the focus on connecting with those who truly have an interest in what they offer increases the odds of winning dramatically.

So, there are the five things I feel many who have had successful searches have in common. If you’ve been looking for some time and aren’t having much luck, ask yourself how you’re doing in all of these areas. I can’t say one is more important than another. All matter. Get these points down so you can increase your odds of being the next person with an offer in hand.

Greeting Card Aisles

There is a reason why greeting card aisles offer lots of choices. No matter how similar the overall message, the way it’s delivered depends heavily on the relationship between giver and receiver, the perspective of the receiver, the situation at hand and what the message needs to achieve.

Imagine how different the card would need to be in the case of:

  • A birthday card for a friend turning 50 vs for a nephew turning 5.
  • A “congratulations” card for the arrival of a sister’s new baby vs a co-worker’s landing of a new job.
  • A Father’s/Mother’s Day card for an involved parent vs one who was largely absent.
  • A “thinking of you” card for a cousin diagnosed with a serious disease versus one for a neighbor who had a tree fall on his house.
  • A December holiday card for a Christian family vs a Jewish family.

Consider for a moment how it comes off to the recipient if the giver doesn’t take the time to make sure the message is appropriate and valuable. That 50 year old friend who gets a card with Thomas the Train stickers inside is going to think the giver is either joking or 3 quarters shy of a dollar. It’s painfully clear that card was intended for a different audience.

Also consider how it comes off when the card is so generic it really doesn’t matter who the giver or recipient might be. Phoning it in isn’t a way to make a good impression. Any message that leaves a receiver wondering why the person even bothered is a failure.

You know what comes next, right? When putting together a resume for prospective employers, please think of this greeting card analogy. If you’re doing it right, the variations of your resume should fill up a few sections, not slots, in a greeting card aisle. Every job you apply to should create a new “card” in your inventory. Job seekers working with 2 or 3 versions of their resume have, more than likely, flopped in the delivery of the message and left recipients wondering if they truly understood the situation or even cared enough to get it right.

Don’t Avoid Your Job Search Because It’s Painful

There are times when looking for work just hurts, physically and mentally. This is especially true for those who are unemployed while on the hunt. Few situations force us to come to terms with fears, inadequacies and bad habits like a job search does.

Most humans have an inclination towards self-preservation. Because of this we shy away from things that prove to be painful. Pain is usually bad. It usually means we’re doing something wrong. Not always though and it’s important to make the distinction.

Let me take a moment to talk about me…surprise, surprise. Right now I’m in the beginnings of a chiropractic treatment. After years of bad habits, my neck is an absolute mess. It’s not aligned correctly and causing me problems. Dumb me, I thought the solution to my problem was going to be a simple adjustment and voila, better. Turns out that’s not how it works. My posture has been bad for a while now and is rebelling against lining up the right way. My muscles hurt. My neck hurts. To top if off, my body keeps wanting to revert back to the bad form it’s become used to, so I have to keep going back for more treatments. I also have to do special exercises, change the way I use the computer, adjust my car seat differently, try to sleep more on my back, etc. Eventually I will win the posture game, but there is no doubt I’ll have to hurt on occasion to pull of the victory. There is no way to get to the desired outcome without pain.

When mentioned this to my husband, he said it’s the same thing as having braces. The initial stages of moving your teeth hurts at times, but the end result makes the pain worthwhile. Stopping because it hurt wouldn’t solve a thing.

My point is, don’t avoid your job search because it wounds you at times. Breaking bad habits, inviting rejection, taking new risks, acknowledging faults and exposing your situation all can come with pain. The important part is making sure all of that hurt isn’t in vain. Press through it and see you end up in a better place for doing so.