Friday, October 22, 2010

Managing your career: It's part of your job.

Over the past several months, I have been faced with the question of career management.  You see, every day, it is my job to help people find jobs, and to that extent, I am pretty good at it.  The piece that is missing is long term career management and planning. 

I recently gave a presentation to a group of job seekers, and one woman asked the question, "If I take a lot of temp jobs, how will that effect my ability to land a full time job later on?"  I gave her an answer that at the time seemed less than adequate.  It occurs to me now, that having a lot of short term engagements is not bad if you intend to have a career as a consultant.  If on the other hand, you are looking for a full time position that you can commit to, then having a lot of short projects may not be in your best interest.

It is tough to tell someone who is out of work that they should not take a short term gig, but it is just as hard to tell someone with a lot of short term engagments that a manager is looking for more stability.  This is a real dilemma for many people in today's job market.

The point is, when you are looking for a position, think about the role you are going to play, and how does it help or hurt your long term career goals? 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Respect...

Respect is a funny thing. You only get it if you earn it, and you only earn it if the person you are engaged with is willing to allow you to earn it. Someone once told me “Trust” is when you make yourself vulnerable to another, knowing the other person can hurt you, but believing they won’t." Respect comes after trust, and trust is hard to fix once it is broken.


I mention this because I recently placed a contractor in a position at a leading company, and it is a very good position, on a long term contract. The manager loves this guy and went out of his way to get the budget to hire him. The relationship I have with the manager is also very good, so the ability for us to negotiate is very easy.

To that end, this contractor had some compliance paperwork that needed to be completed. One of the people on my staff reached out to him and did not receive a response. Then another call and email went out, with no response. Finally, our HR team got involved and threatened to walk him off the assignment unless he complied with this request.

Much to my surprise, the contractor sent back a very aggressive and somewhat nasty email and copied several people in my organization. My first reaction was, “What an idiot! Doesn’t he know that we are his employer?” After being extremely forceful and threatening to remove him from his assignment, he ultimately did comply, but not without incident.

If you choose to work with an agency, and you get placed in a new position, don’t forget who you work for. The assignment you may be on, is just that, an assignment. The end client is not your employer, even though you are expected to take day to day direction from them, and you report to them for your production requirements, your ultimate employer is the agency that placed you. If you are disrespectful to me, and to my staff, I don’t care how good you may be at your job, I will never endorse you again for another position. If you are overly aggressive, I will fire you and make it known to my entire organization that you are hard to work with, are disrespectful, and should not be presented for futire openings.

This is a very harsh reality, but it is the truth. I would argue that you should be respectful of everyone, regardless of their relationship with you, but especially your employer. Don’t make the same dumb mistake this contractor made, and you will find yourself with more opportunities, more friends, a stronger network, and most importantly a good reputation.

Good luck with your job search, and remember, you are responsible for the relationships you forge.  If you form bad relationships, you will be lonely, so make sure you bite your tongue whenever you find yourself in a situation where you are frustrated or angry about something.  Let cooler heads prevail...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Relationship Risks...

June 19th, I lost a friend. I didn’t really know this person all that well, but we had a immediate connection, and were just starting to get to know each other at a deeper level. There was a period of time when we just couldn’t manage to get our schedules lined up and we went for a long time without seeing each other, but stayed in touch by phone, text, and email. It was one of the most invigorating relationships in my life.


Something changed in her life, and her perspective was completely changed. Her attitude toward life shifted dramatically from bright, zesty, energetic, and positive, to lost and lonely, depressed, and unmotivated. I tried desperately to help her identify the areas of her life that were her strengths, but every attempt went unanswered. I went out of my way to give her the support she needed, and she declined. We made several appointments to meet, and she missed or cancelled each one. Now it is too late, and there is a major void in my life.

The risk in really getting to know who you are, and what you want, is that you will start to understand how you can help others achieve what they want. And when you do that, it is very easy to get emotionally invested in the process. Like a surgeon who is unable to save a patient, I feel like I lost a friend and I tried everything I could to save her, but was unable.

I know it is not my job to save people from themselves. I led her to the water, but she chose not to drink. I handed her an opportunity to get out from under her situation, and she dropped the ball. I offered her support, and she disregarded my attempts. The worst part is that the last thing I ever received from her was a personal hand-written note that says, “… I can’t wait to see how this whole thing pans out.” Now we know and my heart is broken.

So what does this have to do with finding a job, and discovering who you are and what you want? Well, for me, it is about the personal relationship. The strength of meaningful personal relationships is extreme. It has the ability to propel you to new heights, or drag you to new lows. It is up to you to make sure you do everything you can to have uplifting relationships, even if the person on the other side of the equation is not.

You see, personal relationships are your best opportunity to find a new job, when you find yourself looking. The important thing to note is that these relationships must start well in advance of you ever needing to leverage them. You must start immediately building a solid network of people that may be in a position to help you when you need it most. This means making relationships with people older than you, smarter than you, more experienced that you, and willing to make the time to help when you need it. Then you need to be able to recognize your state of mind, and accept the help when they offer it.

I wish you all the very best of luck when you engage with another person. I hope all your relationships grow into friendships, and those friendships blossom into something special. I was not able to achieve this high level meaningful relationship with this friend, and the void I feel inside is gaping. I wonder if there was anything I could have done differently to affect the outcome to have a positive result, but I may never know…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Job Hunting Suicide

When I was heading to college, a cousin of mine stuck his neck out and made contact with one of his friends from law school. He made arrangements for me to interview for an entry level File Clerk position when I arrived. At the time, I wasn’t interested in being a file clerk, and especially in a law firm. So I never called the guy, never went on that interview, never met those people, and worst of all, I damaged my cousins reputation and tarnished our last name.

I talk to people all the time about the importance of your personal network. You must understanding that your friends and family, who care about you most, will put you in the best position to find a new job. Back then, I made the mistake of not recognizing the value of that introduction.

I am compelled to write about this topic because I find myself on the other side of the equation now. I have a friend who is looking for a new job. She is in her mid 20’s and uncertain of her abilities. Her self-confidence has been broken a little. Regardless, she is extremely bright, has a great attitude, is coachable, and people love her.

A few weeks ago, I offered to help re-write her resume. We went through a small part of the process, and I gave her some examples of what a good, strong, professional resume should look and read like. I even gave her a copy of my own resume as a sample to follow. Then, just the other day, one of my clients opened up a position that would be absolutely perfect for her. The pay is twice what she made last year, and I have a very good relationship with the hiring manager.

Much to my surprise, when I approached my friend with this information, she was less than enthusiastic about it. I asked her to call so I could give her the description, and I never heard back. It seemed so easy to blow off my cousin when I was her age. Being on the other side, I can tell you it’s extremely painful to have the ability to help, and be willing to put in extra effort, just to watch as it all fizzles out. My friend is still looking for a job and not reaching out for help.  It is hard to hear her talk about how worried she is about her situation.

If you are looking for work, even if you are experiencing total despair, when a friend comes to you with an opportunity, get excited. And, if your friend is someone like me, a professional in the staffing industry, then  get really excited.  When a personal call comes over with a real opportunity, you need to be prepared to move quickly. The power of personal relationships is unbelievable, and can move you in either positive or negative directions. If you neglect the opportunities that come by way of your friends, then your friends will stop making the offer, and then you will be out in the market just like everyone else who has no more friends. Try finding a job then!

I am going to call my cousin and apologize now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fill the gaps...

When I talk to people who have been out of work for more than 90 days, I share with them the importance of explaining any gaps in employment. The longer the gap, the more explaining you have to do, but any period of time longer than 90-days requires some kind of explanation.

For some, the explanation might be that they retired, took some time to travel, and are returning to the workforce. Another might say, I had a baby and stayed home with my child for the past three years. There are many very plausible explanations that employers will accept. In the event that you don’t have a very good story to tell, you have to create one. The best way to do that, is to volunteer in your community.

I want to tell a story to illustrate my point. This past weekend, I attended the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Orientation. My initial intention was to go help build houses, because I love to do construction work and this is a good vehicle for me to do it. I also have a personal mission, to have a positive influence and improve the lives of others, and this fills that criterion very well.

After sitting through the orientation, and learning about the organization, how people qualify for a Habitat Home, and the impact it has on families, I found the experience to be simply astounding. Yes, I will get to work with my hands, and yes I will have a positive impact on others, but having done nothing yet, I can tell you that I am impassioned to a new degree.

There was a little boy, maybe five years old, and his mother at the orientation. She shared her experience from the side of the homeowner. Half the room was in tears, the other half was certainly choked-up. Her emotional connection to the value Habitat and the volunteers that helped build her house runs very deep. She explained that she still keeps in touch with many of the people who worked on her house, nearly three years ago.

What I can tell you is this. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to explain a gap, the best way to do that is to find an organization that moves you, that you can be passionate about, that you can be committed to, and that meets your personal mission. The impact you will have on others is tremendous, but the relationships you can build will be invaluable, and may even lead you to a new career.

Remember, employers are looking for the value you bring to an organization. Sometimes having a committed member of the community is an intangible asset to a company. It shows that you have a deep connection to the community, that you are a dedicated person, that you are unselfish, and most importantly, you show depth in character. The best time to start volunteering is right now. Get involved today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because every day that goes by, the gap gets wider and harder to explain.

I can’t wait to start building homes for people, and I challenge you to find something you can’t wait to do too…

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The importance of a personal mission statement.

Do you have your own personal mission statement? A sentence that encompasses all that you are and all that you intend to do in your lifetime? If you are like most people, the answer is no. And even if you do, is it refined to a point where you can tell it to someone and they will have a full grasp of your purpose in life?

Companies typically have a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, and a set of Core Values. The Mission Statement is what the customer sees, the vision statement is what the employees see, and the Core Values are the directives to help achieve the Mission and Vision. The Mission and Vision Statements can change over time, but the Core Values must remain the same.

I will challenge you to think about what is your Mission? What is your Vision? And, what are your Core Values. Once you make the commitment to figure out who you are, and what you want, it is easier to develop a statement that will embody your total thought.

The most amazing thing happens when you have a fully developed Mission Statement too. All of a sudden, you will have clarity in your position. You will start to identify jobs that fit your mission. You will find it easier to gravitate toward a career that will help you achieve your personal mission. You see, your job is what you do, but your mission is who you are. Don’t confuse your job with your mission. First you have to write your mission, and then you can go find a job that will align your activities to help you achieve your mission.

For example, my personal mission statement reads:
“To be a positive influence, and improve the lives of others, through meaningful personal relationships”

My Core Values are:
• To provide consistent and impeccable service
• To treat people with respect and dignity
• To exceed expectations

You can see how my job, in the staffing industry, fits with my mission. By helping people find work, I am having a positive influence on the whole world, and I am helping not just that one person, but a whole domino effect of people surrounding that person. The best way I can accomplish my job is through the connections I have and the relationships I have with others.

When you know what your mission is, and you find a job that matches with your spiritual self, then it is really easy to get motivated to get up and go to work each day. I think of my job like this: If I help a man get a job, and that allows him to put his child through college, and that child grows up to be an accomplished and successful scientist who goes on to win the Nobel Prize, then I have achieved everything. That child will never know that I had a hand in his achievements, and I will probably never know about all the success stories that come from my activities either. Just knowing that I can have an indirect effect on greatness is motivation enough.

You need to find something that fills your passion bucket, and the only way to do that is to identify your personal mission and then live up to it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Earth revolves around the Sun.

I was watching a program on the DVR about astronomy. It was a fascinating show that walked through the history starting with the Greeks and Romans, working through Math and Science all the way through to today’s techniques.

When they were talking about Galileo, and the compromises he had to make in order to save his own head, I was astounded. Though he wasn’t the first to suggest it, he is quoted as saying “The Earth revolves around the Sun.” For this, he was subjected to the wrath of the Church and all that goes along with that.

My immediate thought was, “Of course the Earth revolves around the Sun.” That makes perfect sense. If you really think about it, it is kind of easy to see, but at the time, it was not so obvious. Science to that point still pointed to the Sun revolving around the Earth.

The thing that struck me is that until someone points something out, it seems impossible and inconceivable. Until we send someone to Mars, we haven’t, but we have sent several people to the Moon. Think about that! The history of the Earth changed in what we call December 1969; a pivot point in time when everything that comes after it is in a new paradigm.

Like the notion that Gravity didn’t exist until Newton figured it out. Of course Gravity existed! We just didn’t know how to explain or measure it. Now we do…

The point I am trying to make is that you have the ability to create a pivot point in your own timeline. You can make a paradigm shift in your thinking.

When you are out looking for your next job, think about the way you behave. Your facial expressions, your posture, your personal presentation, clothing, hair, accessories, etc…, all say something about the type of person you are. It is a reflection of your intentions. It is time for you to be deliberate. Don’t let something fall into your lap, go out and get it. It is feeding time, and employers are looking for value for their investment. Value comes in the form of Character.

There are a lot of people that are good at your job. You have to differentiate yourself with a value proposition. You must develop your Character as the foundation to build everything else upon. You must align your intentions with your behavior. Make sure you are doing the things you mean to do. If you are not, then you must be doing the things you DO NOT mean to do. That is a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So, what do you do?

Having a great resume is one key element of landing your next job, but the interview is really your opportunity to present your talents. Recently a candidate was submitted for a position and the hiring manager loved her resume. It was well written, clear, concise, and it expressed all the value she brings to an organization. On paper, she was a rock star.

An Interview was scheduled, and both seemed excited about meeting the other.

Are you fully prepared for your first interview? Are you fully informed about the person and the company you are going to see? Well, in this case, the candidate went into the interview well dressed, well groomed, with a bright attitude, and sat down with the hiring manager. They went through the obligatory rapport and a series of questions. The last questions the manager asked was, “Do you have any questions?” And her reply…

“SO, WHAT DO YOU DO?”

It wasn’t long before that interview came to a polite end.

The point is you have to do your homework. You have spent all this time working up your story, figuring out what you want, writing your resume, and then you go into your interview excited because you feel like you finally made it through to a win, just to be unprepared… That I don’t understand. It is not that hard to find out a little bit of information. If you are working with a recruiter, ask them! Most likely they have worked with this manager before and can give some good advice. If you found this position on your own, then look up the person on LinkedIn or Facebook. Look up the company’s website and find out what product or service they sell.

When this woman asked the question, “So, what do you do?” she was really saying, I am just like everyone else who’s come in here. I didn’t take the time to even see if I was a good fit for the company or the environment. In fact, I am just interested in landing a job, anywhere…

The hiring managers you are trying to reach are looking for a diamond in the rough. They are looking for the most qualified, and the most polished. If you are not taking the time to do a little research, then you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from your competition. Be fully prepared to ask intelligent questions that lead an opportunity to talk about your strengths in those situations.

Remember, an interview is an opportunity for you to interview them too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What you think of me is none of my business.

When I was a teenager, a homeless man approached me in the subway under Downtown Chicago. I was simply waiting for the next train to take me Uptown and, out of the blue, in a very animated voice, he said, “What you think of me is none of my business!” I was taken by surprise, mostly because I wasn’t sure I thought anything of him until that moment and secondly because it was so unexpected. It took a long time for me to digest his words, and it finally occurred to me that he was absolutely right.

As important as it is to consider others in your quest for purpose, at the end of the day, you are the one that has to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I proud of what I did today?” If you honestly feel good about what you did, that it was in the best interest of your family, your friends, your employer, your clients, and your community; that you treated everyone with respect and dignity, then you don’t have to worry about what others think of you. They will have no reason to develop a negative opinion.

What others think of you is completely and totally within your control. You are in charge of the opinions others form of you. Every day, every moment, you make decisions that shape your life and have an effect on the relationships you choose to develop. If you choose to make decisions that build trust, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship, then people will have no choice but to think positively when you cross their mind. On the other hand, if you make decisions that damage your character, then people will form negative opinions. If you are concerned about what others think, you must examine your behavior and make some modifications.

You see, when you do what you say you are going to do, and you develop the pillars of character, you will be in a better position to do some self-examination. You can reflect on the areas of your life where you need to make changes and develop your personality further. And, you will find, that others will be more willing to help you in that effort. People like people they can trust, and they can only trust people who are true to themselves.

So, what you think of me is none of my business starts to make sense when you know that you have done nothing to cause another to form a negative opinion. If you focus your energy and your efforts on making good decisions and doing what is right all the time, and someone still finds something negative to say or think about you, then who cares? You can’t take that personally.

In the context of finding a job, it is essential that you have strong relationships. You have certainly heard the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” In so many ways this is true. Most people find their next job because they know someone, and not because they are the most qualified. In fact, many positions are posted with someone already pre-identified as the person that will get hired, but because of the labor laws, companies are required to make the position public. If you are looking for the best job, you have to have relationships with people that are more than skin deep. No one wants to help you more than people who consider you a friend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Being on-time will kill you!

My mother taught me a very important lesson that resonates with me today. She said, “If you are on-time to every meeting, then you will go out of business…” This may seem counterintuitive but if you really think about the lesson, you will see that she is absolutely right.


Her perspective is, and always has been, that if you want to have the edge over your competition, then you need to arrive early. Not too early, but early enough that you have time to park, use the restroom, check your clothing and hair etc… in the mirror, and be fully prepared for the engagement.

This is especially true if you are going on a job interview.

I frequently invite candidates to my office for a pre-interview before I submit them to a client for an open position. It amazes me how many people show up two or three minutes late, and then wonder why they are having trouble finding a job.

If I am representing a candidate, it is essential that I am 100% confident that the person I submit will represent my reputation to the fullest extent. When I submit a resume to a job opening, I am not just sending paper across the hiring manager’s desk; I am selling the person, including their soft skills, to that manager. If you are late to my interview, then how can I be confident that you will be on-time for the client interview? What if you in fact get the job, how can I be sure you will be on-time for work every day? The obvious answer is, I Can’t!

It is very rare that skills and credentials alone will be enough to get you in the door. You have to have the other intangible qualities that set you apart from everyone else. Being a little early to an interview is never a bad thing, so make sure you give yourself enough time to get through traffic, find a place to park, get to the office and be fully engaged and prepared to have a meaningful conversation. You may be the most talented person in the world, but if you show up late, you lose!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is your niche?

Every day I read resumes that are overfilled with irrelevant credentials.  One woman I recently met with is an MBA, CPA, PMP, BFD...   She has made it her passion to get as much education as possible in many areas, hoping that this will help set her apart from the rest of the candidate pool.  She is right in that it sets her apart, but I am not sure she is getting the attention she intended.

In today's job market, employers are looking for candidates that have specific skills and credentials.  If they are looking for a Project Manager and you have a PMP, then put it on your resume.  If you happen to be a CPA or have some other credential that is meaningful to you, and is most likely a great achievement, but it does not relate to the position you are applying for, then leave it off your resume.  It can do more harm than good if an employer sees too many letters after your name.

Companies are looking for value, and people who can bring value to their organization, but they typically do not want people who are not focused on their craft.  It is important to present yourself as an expert in one area, rather than familiar with many.  Find your niche.  What are you good at?  Where have you experienced the most success?  Emphasize these points, and let the rest of the information fall off.  This will help you position yourself to find the best job.

Many people have several resumes, especially if they are capable of various tasks.  If you are looking for jobs in separate fields or industries, then you should tailor your resume for each category.  There are some people with five or more versions ready to send to employers for what ever opportunities may come available.

What most people don't understand is that your resume will not get you a job, but it most certainly has the ability to keep you from getting one.  If your resume ends up in the trash pile because you are perceived as unfocused, over-educated, or over-qualified, then you should prepare for a very long job search.  And, when you do come across an opportunity, chances are it will not be the job you were hoping for.

Get focused, lose your pride, and align your resume with the desires of the people reading them.  If you would like your resume evaluated, sent it to me.  I will gladly give you my critique and help you position yourself, not just for a job, but for the best job...

ben.passman@cdicorp.com

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does your resume really say?

It’s astonishing how many people believe they are “Top Talent” but fail to represent themselves as such in their resume. I don’t think people realize that your resume will not get you a job, but it most certainly can keep you from getting one. Employers sometimes immortalize resumes as the funniest or most ridiculous. I knew one guy who kept a “Donkey List” and quite literally put the worst resumes on the list for all to see.

Your resume is your vehicle that allows you to get to the hunting ground. It is your first opportunity to represent yourself to an employer and you must find a way to distinguish yourself from all the other candidates.

Think of your resume as a piece of marketing material. Equal to something you might get in the mail from a company that wants you to buy their product or service. Unless your career is in sales, you must find a way to change your perspective altogether and start thinking of your resume as your product sheet, you are the product, and you have to sell yourself to employers.

In sales, it is important to provide value to your client. In a job search, you have to consider the employer is going to make an investment in you, and they need to judge if you are going to be of value to their organization. If your resume is not up to snuff, then you will easily be disqualified.

Some of the most common mistakes I see are simple to fix. Many people say they have “Strong communication skills” and then misspell words or write incomplete sentences. Sometimes you can tell when someone is stretching the truth or exaggerating their role. Many times, formatting is inconsistent and hard to follow. These are all things that scream to an employer, “Donkey!”

So what does your resume really say? Does it tell employers that you are the only candidate they really need to talk to? Does it say I’m ready to take on the challenge? Does it convey confidence, ownership of your career, and your ability? Or does is say, “I’m a Donkey?”