Small Needle, Big Haystack – from Seth Godin

February 27, 2010

I’ve become a big fan of Seth Godin’s blog – mainly because he’s so refreshing and…right.
Here’s a terrific post from his book Small is the New Big that fit’s any job seeker looking to be remarkable.

Needles, haystacks & magnetism

Last month, I posted a bunch of notices looking to hire summer interns (yes, we’re set, thanks). The ads asked people to send in a three page PDF, describing their background, their goals and giving applicants a chance to really stand out and make their case.

This, of course, should be the dream opportunity for most job seekers. Instead of being treated as a piece of paper, a list of stats in a dry resume, here was a chance to actually tell a little about yourself.

HALF the people sent in a resume. Just a resume.

“Here’s my resume” was the total content of at least 20% of the cover notes I got.

Part of this is the result of being beaten down. Most of the system is about following the rules, fitting in and not standing out. But a lot of it, it seems to me, is that people are laboring under a very mistaken impression about what works–in life, in seeking a job and in marketing in general.

Most people, apparently, believe that if they just get their needle sharp enough, it’ll magnetically leap out of the haystack and land wherever it belongs. If they don’t get a great job or make a great sale or land a terrific date, it might just be because they don’t deserve it.

Having met some successful people, I can assure you that they didn’t get that way by deserving it.

What chance is there that your totally average resume, describing a totally average academic and work career is going to get you most jobs? “Hey Bill! Check out this average guy with an average academic background and really exceptionally average work experience! Maybe he’s cheap!!”

Do you hire people that way? Do you choose products that way? If you’re driving a Chevy Cavalier and working for the Social Security Administration, perhaps, but those days are long gone.

People are buying only one thing from you: the way the engagement (hiring you, working with you, dating you, using your product or service, learning from you) makes them feel.

So how do you make people feel?

Could you make them feel better? More? Could you create the emotions that they’re seeking?

As long as we focus on the commodity, on the sharper needle, we’re lost. Why? Because most customers don’t carry a magnet. Because the sharpest needle is rarely the one that gets out of the haystack. Intead, buyers are looking for the Free Prize, for that exceptional attribute that’s worth talking about. I just polled the four interns sitting here with me. Between them, they speak 12 languages. No, that’s not why I hired them. No, we don’t need Tagalog in our daily work…. but it’s a free prize. It’s one of the many things that made them interesting, that made me feel good about hiring them.

What’s your Free Prize?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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Laid Off – The End or the Beginning?

February 8, 2010

If you saw the movie “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, there is a scene where actual non-actors describe what it was like being fired or laid off. I was very moved by the pain and sense of loss they experienced and it brought back very painful memories for me.

So now I spend a lot of time helping others in this situation, and I see many who are in the same position as those in the movie. There is another scene in the movie where he talks about the people who changed the world who were sitting in their seat just like them at some previous time (I’m not describing this very well if you didn’t see the movie, but stay with me.)

The point is that many of us get complacent in our jobs and stop trying to be the best we can and – well, it takes getting laid off or fired to take action and follow our dreams. Not everyone can find the courage to do that – especially when your income has just been cut off.
But for those who dare, the rewards can be unimaginable. Even if you fail – and you probably will – you’ll learn from it, get up and try again. Sooner or later you’ll succeed and wonder why you didn’t do this 20 years ago.

So here’s a very inspirational trailer I found on Seth Godin’s blog. It’s to an upcoming movie called Lemonade.

If you want some motivational incentive, just watch the trailer and then comment back to me.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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10 Tips for Job Hunting in a Tight Market

January 25, 2010

The following article is from by Kate Wendleton, President of The Five O’Clock Club.

The job market is shaky. Answering ads, and talking to search firms won’t set you apart from the competition. Remember, according to the JOLTS report, employers hired almost 4.2 million people in November, an increase of about 130,000 from the previous month. But the number of people who quit their jobs, were fired or were laid off rose to 4.3 million that month. This churn is in your favor. When people move around, as they are now, there’s room for you. A few simple guidelines can shorten your search time
by months, even in this market.

1. Expand your job-hunting targets. If you are searching only in Los Angeles or only in Detroit, for example, think of other geographic areas. If you are looking only in large public corporations, consider small or private companies or not-for-profits.

2. If you are looking for a certain kind of position, investigate what other kinds of work you also could do.

3. It takes an average of eight follow-up phone calls to get a meeting. After you have written or emailed someone asking for a meeting, do not leave messages for a person to call you back. Instead, keep on calling. If you’re still unsuccessful in reaching them, try calling the company operator and ask to speak to the person’s assistant or someone who sits near them. See people two levels higher than you are.

4. When you are in the initial stages of exploring a target area, contact people at your level to find out about that area and see how well your skills match up. But then you must contact people who are at a higher level than you are. They are the ones who
are in a position to hire you or recommend that you be hired.

5. A job hunter must have 6 to 10 job possibilities in the works concurrently. Five O’Clock Club research shows that five of those will fall away through no fault of your own. For example, a company could decide to hire no one, hire a marketing person instead of an accounting person, or hire their not-so-bright brother-in-law instead of you. It’s not your fault.

6. Job hunters who get small-group career coaching throughout their searches get more satisfying jobs faster and at higher rates of pay than those who search on their own, and also more quickly than those who work privately with a career coach throughout their searches. Job hunters learn from each other’s strategies, help each other and help motivate their comrades. The average résumé is reviewed for only 10 seconds.

7. Résumés should have a summary containing the most important accomplishments the job hunter wants the reader to know. “Thank you” notes after a job interview are ineffective. Instead a job hunter must influence the hiring manager, addressing the key issues discussed in the meeting.

8. Unemployed job hunters are not at a disadvantage. More than 78% of the unemployed job hunters who attended targeted group coaching got jobs that paid the same or more than their last jobs.

9. Think about developing new skills. If you suspect your old skills are out-of-date, develop new ones. If you can’t get a job because you don’t have the experience, get the experience. Join an association related to your new skill area.

10. Keep your spirits up. An alarming number of job hunters in the U.S. are
discouraged and dropping out of the job market. Don’t you be one of them.
Be aware that what you are going through is not easy, and that many of the
things you are experiencing are being experienced by just about everybody
else. Hang in there, get a fresh start, follow a proven methodology (www.FiveOClockClub.com), and eventually you will get something.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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Top 3 Weekly Job Search Tips

January 21, 2010

First up is How to Build a Powerful Executive Network by Meg Giuseppi. This really is an excellent post. Her blog is focused on the senior level job searcher, but the advice applies to anyone. Here’s an excerpt:
You probably hear it all the time if you’re job-hunting. Networking is the best way to identify and position yourself for new job opportunities.

Reconnecting with your existing network and connecting with new people can help you tap into the “hidden job market” of unadvertised positions and new opportunities created around your unique promise of value.

It’s okay to circle back to your neglected network and re-build. You also need to cast a far-reaching net to connect with people at your target companies. Read the rest here.

Next is a short video featuring Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com on Boomers using social media. This video has some interesting facts: For example, 12,000 people are turning 50 years old every day and 8,000 are turning 60 every day. That’s a bit staggering, isn’t it? And most of those people have been using computers in their jobs for years, so they are very proficient online.

The drop off seems to be around 67 – 68 years old where going online is not as comfortable or familiar. One big difference, Jeff notes, is that this demographic knows how to write, and not just in 140 character bytes (OMG!) Pretty interesting.

Lastly is a short post by Jason Alba (again!) with his 5 Second Elevator Pitch.

I think it was Liz Ryan who called this a “bumper sticker” (great concept).
In LinkedIn they call it a Professional Headline.
Some call it a tag line.
It is the bite-sized value proposition… I might get bored listening to your poorly-crafted 30 second elevator pitch, but I can’t help but digest your 5 Second Elevator Pitch.

One of my favorites is from Carol Fletez, who is an IT professional in the D.C. area. Look at how fantastic her 5 second pitch is:

Helping Companies Migrate from Mainframes to the Future!

This might not mean anything to you but I used to work in a mainframe environment. Mainframes are cool and powerful, but many times you feel like you are in the bedrock era. Carol’s very simple phrase… Helping Companies Migrate from Mainframes to the Future! … is just clever! It brought a grin to my face, and immediately I assumed she has an expertise in legacy systems and new stuff, and marrying the two. Anyone who has been around mainframes will know what this means.

Guess what? She also has this sentence on her email signature – she is getting that branding in multiple places (as she should).

What is YOUR 5 Second pitch?

Which one of the three is your favorite?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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Keith Ferrazzi’s Advice for the 50 plus Job Seeker: Develop Your Lifelines

January 14, 2010

With all the current buzz about networking to find jobs instead of the traditional methods, it seemed appropriate to talk with an expert on networking to get a bit more insight on the subject.

I was inspired by a recent post from his blog last week, so Tuesday I spoke with Keith Ferrazzi, NY Times bestselling author of “Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” and “Who’s Got Your Back – The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success–and Won’t Let You Fail”.

Keith is a world renowned keynote speaker and expert in networking and relationship development. In this interview, Keith spoke of the importance for older job seekers (or any job seekers, for that matter) to find their small group of “lifelines” – those special people who are committed to your success and who have “got your back”.

What prompted you to write the book Never Eat Alone?

I was frustrated by the way people were defining networking – some of the basic, core truths were deeply misunderstood – especially by people who were calling themselves networkers. Networking is really about developing deep, meaningful relationships and based on generosity first, not how many contacts you have in your Outlook. So that’s why I wrote Never Eat Alone 7 years ago – and it keeps selling…

What advice would you give to the 50+ job seeker?

As you consider the next lily pad you’re hopping to, more than ever you need to know who your lifelines are. In my book, ‘Who’s Got Your Back’, I note that 50% of the people who were asked ‘Who’s got your back’ couldn’t answer the question. 60% of those who couldn’t answer the question were married! They didn’t even consider that their significant others could be their lifelines – and that’s a problem.

To be successful, you can’t do it alone. You need 2-3 people for your lifelines – to spar with, to hold your hand, to prop you up, to be there for you, to support you, to network with.

And how do you find these lifelines?

The long, slow dinner is one way. Interview the few friends that you think might be there for you – that they’re compatible, have the right personality for you, and vice versa – use this opportunity to test them out – it’s like creating your ‘kitchen cabinet’, your unofficial advisers. Napoleon Hill, author of the classic 1937 book “Think and Grow Rich”, used the term “Master Minds” as that group of people who are your personal advisers and are committed to your success. I like to think the message in my books is the modern day equivalent to Napoleon Hill’s timeless wisdom that we cannot do it alone.

What advice do you have for the 20 something job seeker?

It’s the same! I just gave a talk to a Stanford MBA group and the message was the same you need to establish your lifelines.

What are you most passionate about?

I’ll answer that with this story: I recently spoke at an event and the organizer was worried that the group of very technical people would find the message too soft & fuzzy. Instead, they came away saying that my message about meaningful relationships was deeply impactful. That’s what I’m passionate about – that my message is not just helping people be better professionals, but to be better moms and dad’s and sisters and friends – that they can be better people.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
JP Headshot1


Weekly Top 3 Job Search Tips

January 11, 2010

Here are my top 3 articles on job search tips I’ve found since the New Year began. These are compiled from the many articles and blogs I read on the economy, jobs and the best strategies for finding them.
1. First up is from Polly Pearson, who reached out to me after I mentioned the excellent e-book 100 Job Search Tips from FORTUNE 500 Recruiters.
Turns out Polly, who is VP Employment Brand and Strategy Engagement at EMC and was the co-creator of the e-book, has a terrific blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Ask yourself how you are staying up to date on your profession. If it involves learning from people in your department or company, going to an annual conference, or being a member of a professional organization, that is not enough. Get Better At What You Do.

Action: Connect with thought leaders in the space you want to know more about or master. Don’t leave anything “hot” for the “young kids,” or the people with seniority. Learn about it. Thanks to Google, Bing, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon, and good old fashioned volunteering via personal outreach, anything you want to know about is just a click, or request, away. 99% of information and connection with the thought leaders in the space you wish to master is free.

Ask yourself (and reply honestly!) if you are leveraging the resources at your disposal today. Get Better At Using What Is Available to You.

There are LinkedIn professional groups on just about every topic. In these groups, people are having real-time discussions and solving real-time problems. By listening to, and eventually joining, the conversation you’ll pick something up. This will make you more valuable at your current job — and people you work with will start to notice. As chief salesperson and chief marketing officer, how are you making sales calls, building relationships, and looking for potential space to advertise? Now is not the time to be meek or shy. You need to be proud of the product you are selling.

Are you recruiting recruiters? This was called to my attention just this week by JP McDermott over on Examiner.com. Don’t forget to market yourself (and this means many contact attempts) to the people with the jobs! Understand they are busy, but also make sure they know your elevator pitch and how you can help them. Check out Polly’s full article here.

2. Next up is Polly’s EMC colleague and Personal Branding expert and best selling author, Dan Schwabel. His blog Personal Branding has a very good post on job boards and their new role in your social job search. Here’s an excerpt:

If you’re a job seeker, or you were in the past, then you know what a job board is. It’s a database of “open” positions at companies looking to hire specific talent and they are searchable by multiple filters, such as geography and company name. They make money per job listing and have other advertising options, such as banners. In November, The Conference Board reported that job postings were down by 83,000 in October. Other figures I’ve seen over the past few years have shown the decline in job postings, not just because of the economic turmoil, but due to the high costs associated with each posting.

I’ve spoken a lot about the demise of job searching and the rise of “people searching” in the past. The idea behind this concept is that we get jobs through people (you get interviewed by a person, not a fax machine) and hiring managers and recruiters are freely accessible on online social networks. It all comes back to a relationship driven system, instead of a job board driven database. That is not to say that you should ignore job boards altogether. Read Dan’s full post here.

3. Lastly, Jason Alba, founder of job search website JibberJobber, discusses how Twitter can be used networking. I’m still on the fence about Twitter – there’s no doubt it’s incredibly popular, but I’ve wondered about it’s effectiveness as a job search tool. I’m slowly coming around – Jason asks the same question and uses Keith Ferrazzi’s recent trip to Guatemala to make a point. The story is pretty amazing, too. Read it here.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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Job Seeking in the 21st Century Workshop – Save the Date!

January 9, 2010

The line between finding your next career and personal branding has been blurring to the point they are indistinguishable. Lynn Heikke has put together a series of powerful workshops targeting people in transition to learn the necessary tools to stand out in this crowded job market. She has engaged some of the Bay Area’s best for these courses starting on January 19th: Patrick Schwerdtfeger, author of Webify Your Business – Internet Marketing Secrets for the Self-Employed, on LinkedIn and Personal Branding, Cheryl Liquori, author of the Breakfast Blogging Club on Blogging and Lynn Heikke on Twitter.

Here are some of the expected outcomes:

Learn how to meet hiring managers on their new turfs!
Be in control of your own job search!
Become more marketable – you’re the product an employer cannot live without!
Increase your negotiating power – you have new skills that command a higher salary and/or promotion!
Discover ways to showcase your talents and expertise!
Stand WAY out from other job candidates!

For more information, check out Lynn’s site here.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
JP Headshot1