Weekly Top 3 Job Search Tips

March 8, 2010

So the recovery sputters along, but the jobs are lagging. There are some signs of large companies in the Bay Area starting to ramp up after a couple of years of downsizing and freezes. In particular, Cisco and PG&E have announced that they are hiring. Look for other large companies to slowly start making offers as well.

Here are the top 3 job search posts from the past week. Enjoy!

First up this week is from Interns Over 40 and a very timely 10 Simple Ideas to keep your resume out of the Black Hole.
Here’s an excerpt:
Whatever Happened to my Resume?
Astronomers define a black hole as a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. I have often heard job seekers refer to the application process as a “black hole where resumes go, never to be heard from again”.
Here are some simple ideas to keep your resume out of the black hole:
1. Apply only to those jobs where you possess 85% or more of the requirements
2. Customize each resume to include every key word that is mentioned in the job description
3. Develop a headline that provides a “wow factor”, uniquely defining your area of expertise
4. Create 3 or 4 key sentences at the top of your resume to highlight your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
5. Focus on promotions, results and direct contributions, not responsibilities and tasks

For the entire article, click here.

Next up is from the WSJ’s Laid off and Looking blog and After 16 Months, Finally Starting a New Position.
Last Monday I was (finally) offered a job. A good friend recommended me for a position that was never advertised. A couple of interviews later, I am back among the employed.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing remarkable about this position. Other jobs that I had applied for were closer fits for my experience, and I had gotten recommendations for similar positions from friends and business acquaintances. At the time, I was interviewing for two other jobs, which was more interest than I had received during the previous 14 months. I don’t think that market conditions had improved, the positions were not related, I hadn’t recently changed my resume or approach, and it didn’t feel like Divine intervention. It was simply my time.

I never thought it would take as long as it did to find a job. Months of networking, internet job board searching, resume matching, applying, calling, emailing, waiting and hoping were dreadful. I was shocked at the lack of respect potential employers had for me as a job seeker, as 90% of my applications were never given the simple courtesy of a response. Employers seemed unconcerned about the quality of their applicants, as almost none even asked for my references let alone checked them out. I have no idea how they evaluate things like work ethic and leadership skills from a resume, often not even written by the applicant but by a professional resume writer. It seemed that aligning with internal Applicant Tracking Systems was much more important.

I also had many positive experiences. Networking put me back in touch with friends and business acquaintances I hadn’t talked with in years. My family and I have never been closer — I spent time with my wife and kids that I will treasure forever. I got to pretend to be a writer for the WSJ. A few fix-it jobs around the house even got done. I learned about myself and take a new and improved attitude into my new job. I believe that I will be more helpful and understanding of others when they are unemployed or facing their own obstacles.

A total creature of habit, I still look at job openings every day. Instead of worrying about my future, I think about others who find themselves in the same place I was two weeks ago. My advice is to stay positive, level out the good times with the bad, protect your personal brand, nurture your professional entourage, and be patient. Your time will come, just as mine has.

Lastly, You Rock, from Seth Godin:

This is deceptive.

You don’t rock all the time. No one does. No one is a rock star, superstar, world-changing artist all the time. In fact, it’s a self-defeating goal. You can’t do it.

No, but you might rock five minutes a day.

Five minutes to write a blog post that changes everything, or five minutes to deliver an act of generosity that changes someone. Five minutes to invent a great new feature, or five minutes to teach a groundbreaking skill in a way that no one ever thought of before. Five minutes to tell the truth (or hear the truth).

Five minutes a day you might do exceptional work, remarkable work, work that matters. Five minutes a day you might defeat the lizard brain long enough to stand up and make a difference.

And five minutes of rocking would be enough, because it would be five minutes more than just about anyone else.
Which of these tips are you going to employ?

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

Advertisements

An Olympic Bolt from the Past – Seth Godin

March 1, 2010

I mentioned recently how much I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s writing. Here’s another – just as the the Vancouver Winter Olympics have ended, and what a finish for the Men’s hockey team! – he has one of those uncomfortable questions we need to ask ourselves in our jobs, our lives and especially for a new career seeker: Are you a torchbearer? Here’s the post in it’s entirety:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics. To me, most of the pageantry is hackneyed and off-putting — and I’ve never forgiven them for not including Ultimate Frisbee as a sport. Most of all, what’s the deal with curling?

But one part of the Olympics that fascinates me is the torch relay that kicks off the event. Apparently a riff on some legend from ancient Rome (or ancient Greece, I can never remember), the torch relay involves carrying a single flame from one spot to another — preferably a spot that’s pretty far away.

Unlike every other moment of the Olympics, this one focuses all of our attention on a single person, a single detail. No multiple-event, three-ring circus here. It’s one runner, one flame. If the torchbearer falls, it’s a big deal. If she doesn’t make it to the next runner, she lets down everyone ahead of her in line, as well as all of the runners who carried the torch before her.

When people in the workplace confront shift, rift, zooming, and all of the other challenges that make up business life, there is one thread that runs through all of the choices that they make: Either they’re torchbearers, or they’re not.

In 2000, I spent some time working with friends at Flatiron Partners, one of the biggest Internet venture firms on the East Coast. Entrepreneurs think that the selection process used by VCs is a big mystery. They’re dying to know how VC firms decide who gets the big bucks and who gets nothing. The answer is surprisingly simple.

When venture-capital firms look for entrepreneurs on whom to risk their money, they aren’t searching for a great idea, or even great credentials. No, what they’re searching for is this: the certainty that the person who brings them a business idea is going to carry the torch for that idea as long as it takes, that the idea will get passed on, and that the business will make it across the finish line.

The really great startup companies in Silicon Valley, the ones that overcome every obstacle and manage to persist, even when it looks as if they’re going to fail — those companies are run by torchbearers. If there is one thing that separates Silicon Valley from almost any other place I’ve been, it’s not the technology, the traffic jams, or the lack of a decent Italian restaurant — it’s the culture. The place is teeming with torchbearers, with folks who are willing to take responsibility for carrying a flame.
As more and more of us emigrate to Free Agent Nation, a place where more and more people are their own chief executives, the trend toward rewarding torchbearers will only increase. The biggest chasm in our society has become the gap between people who embrace the torchbearer’s responsibility to customers, investors, and companies, and those who are just there for the job.

A lot of folks whom I talk to speak wistfully about what they would do if they were “in charge.” I’ve got news for them: If they’re willing to be in charge, people will put them in charge! In my view, the huge rewards that we’re seeing for people who are brave enough, crazy enough, and talented enough to carry the torch for a new business are entirely justified. Why? Because there aren’t nearly enough torchbearers around.

In 1999, more money was spent to fund new business ventures than in any other year in the history of the world. Yet a huge amount of money sat uninvested, because there was no place to invest it. Are we really out of good ideas? No way. I’ve got a file cabinet filled with them, and you probably know of a few as well. Is there a shortage of engineers who are capable of implementing those ideas? Nope. There are plenty of engineers too.

So, if it’s not a lack of money, ideas, or engineers that is slowing down our shift to the new economy, what is it? Exactly the same thing that’s holding up your company’s transition to a new way of doing business — the absence of someone who is willing to stand up, look everyone in the eye, and say, “I’ll make it happen.”

Here’s how I know that I’m talking to a torchbearer:

First, torchbearers don’t make excuses. Our current economic good times won’t last forever. You won’t always be able to found a company and go public in less time than it takes to have a baby. At some point, the venture-capital funds will dry up. And, when those tough times come, they will present a perfect opportunity for the pretenders to fold their tents. Filled with vitriol and busy looking for a lawyer so that they can sue someone, these entrepreneurial also-rans will find a way to blame their troubles on other people. Real torchbearers run uphill with the same grace and style that they bring to gliding downhill.

Second, torchbearers often attract a crowd. People are fascinated by folks who are willing to carry responsibility. All too often, people add their own burdens to those that their leader must already carry — but, in any case, they’re usually delighted to follow along. And sometimes these folks are loyal and hard-working enough to follow a torchbearer uphill as well as downhill.

Third, most torchbearers don’t realize how unique they are, how powerful their role is, or how hard their task is. Even though they could make outrageous demands and insist on all kinds of special treatment, most of them are happy just to perform their role and to handle their task.

Fourth, torchbearers often care more about forward motion than they do about which route to take. You won’t find them tied up in endless strategy meetings, looking for the perfect solutions. Instead, you’ll find them out on the road, picking their way through boulders and weeds — moving, moving, moving, because they realize that moving is often the best way to get where they’re going.

Fifth, and most important, real torchbearers don’t stop until they finish. In the life of any torchbearer, there’s a balance between devotion to duty and the pursuit of joy. A torchbearer never forgets about or shortchanges a duty, even when that means postponing joy.

In established companies, the refrain that I hear most frequently is “Well, we’d be doing great if [insert person or department, along with pejorative adjective] would just get [his/her/its] act together.” Many previously great companies, both big and small, are having a lot of trouble dealing with all of the changes and rifts that the new economy is bringing to their doorsteps. Why? Because in many companies, the torchbearers have left the building. Either the folks in charge have forgotten what it takes to practice true leadership (after all, they’ve made it, the company has hit its marks, and now it’s “Miller time”), or they’ve left and been replaced by a different kind of management.

The point here isn’t that people in top management are unwilling to embrace change. The point is that the people who are busy pointing fingers and whining about “those guys” are demonstrating that they’re not torchbearers.

If you’re waiting for someone else to lead you to a better way of doing business, then reckon with this Olympic-size news flash: Settle in. It’s going to be a long wait.

All of a sudden, in every company in every country, torchbearers are in high demand. Everybody is trying to figure out where to go. And, much more important, they’re trying as hard as they can to find someone who will take them there: someone who will walk through walls and over hot coals, someone who won’t give up until the job is done.

Intrinsic to being a torchbearer is recognizing that you bear the torch for someone else. In our increasingly “me”-centered society, it’s easy to worry about increasing the value of the Brand Called You, while letting someone else carry your company’s or your investor’s torch. Torchbearers do both.
In a small town in Georgia, a woman named Karen Watson faced such a challenge head-on. Several years ago, her friends and neighbors were complaining about the way that blacks in that town were treated. There was an undercurrent of racism, and, in particular, blacks were being tracked to lower-level classes in school.

For a while, Watson and her neighbors appealed to civil-rights organizations, waiting for some big shot to come to town and save them. Then it dawned on Watson that maybe, just maybe, nobody was ever going to come — and that the person who could make a difference was her.

So she stood up and took charge. She taught herself what she needed to know. She made a commitment. And the organization that she built, the Positive Action Committee, has made a huge difference in her community, generating change in several areas. Watson took responsibility — for her town and for her neighbors’ town. She is a torchbearer.

So could you be a torchbearer? Are torchbearers born or made? Here’s my guess: Many of us have the torchbearer gene, but for some of us, it lies dormant until something awakens it. Some parents raise their children to be torchbearers from birth. Others do whatever they can to persuade their kids to hide it. We’re certainly not organizing our schools or our society to reward children who demonstrate torchbearer qualities.

But I think that you can awaken the torchbearer within. I think that most people, given the right reason, can find the intestinal fortitude to carry a flame across the finish line.

Now, I’m not talking about working hard, or being dedicated, or putting your mission first. Being a torchbearer has nothing to do with how late you work at night, or whether you give your cell-phone number to your boss. No, I’m talking about the people with that rare skill, the ability to dig deep when the need arises — to get past the short-term pain and to pull off an act that few would have believed possible.
In the new economy, people are doing things that have never been done before. Faced with the unprecedented, in an environment that’s unstable, many people say, “It can’t be done.” The torchbearer is the one who does it. Roger Bannister did more than set a record when he ran a mile in less than four minutes. He showed the world that anyone else could do that as well. He broke a time barrier, and he changed the way that everybody trained for a race.

Are you a torchbearer? Probably. The challenge is to find the right project, the right challenge, the right moment — and then to do it. Once you’ve shown that you can do that, the world will beat a path to your door.

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


San Francisco East Bay Job Support Organizations – SING – 2nd in a series

February 23, 2010

This is the second in an occasional series on San Francisco East Bay job support resources. The last article was on Experience Unlimited

In 2001, Danville’s St. Isidore School principal Kathy Gannon-Briggs noticed the increase in fathers who were dropping their kids off and picking them up after school. “Why weren’t they at work?” she wondered.

As Tom Loarie, one of the present team leaders for the St. Isidore Networking Group (SING), tells the story, she quickly figured out that these fathers had been victims of the dot.com crash, were out of work, and needed help.

Founded in 2001, SING, which is open to all faith traditions , met weekly at Kathy’s home to provide support for those in, or thinking about job transition. The group helped over 250 executives, managers, and professionals between its inception and 2005 when it went into cyber-mode. With the 2008 economic meltdown and strong demand, SING renewed its weekly meetings in January 2009 and is again providing hope and inspiration mixed with resume-writing, interviewing, and networking skills to a much larger group which now meets at St. Isidore Catholic Church.

Each week usually has a guest speaker with transition related talks. One of the recent speakers was John Younger, Founder and CEO of Accolo, a recruitment outsourcing firm, whose message was that today’s job search is like the old wild west: there are no longer any rules. He also stressed the importance of using every social network available to “know” your target company and hiring manager and find creative ways to reach out to them.

SING provides support on networking, identifying and ranking your next company, different types of resumes and cover letters (and how to write one that is top-notch), different types of interviews and interviewing techniques, the use of search firms and job boards, and position negotiation techniques.

SING’s membership in their Google Group is now over 300 members, who receive a daily email with jobs, tips, relevant articles and bits of motivation and inspiration. “This ministry had been extremely rewarding to all involved. I have been fascinated with the bonds participants have developed with one another and know that all are developing friendships which will last well beyond the current crisis.” echoes Loarie.

If you go:

What: St. Isidore Networking Group (SING)

Where: 440 La Gonda, Danville, CA 94526

When: Monday Evenings from 7:00 to 8:30 PM

Contact: Tom Loarie – (925) 525-0272

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


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
JP Headshot1


Know What You Want to Find Your Next Job – Tina Chang Did!

February 1, 2010

With the unemployment and underemployment rate over 17%, competition for the few jobs out there is brutal. But there are success stories. Here’s how Tina Chang landed her position as New Product Program Manager at Cisco.

Tina’s career began right out of college with an Industrial Engineering degree, working for HP as a Process Engineer. After a few years, she had the opportunity to use her degree with a group of other industrial engineers and worked for IBM for 6 years. She went back to HP for a few years working in PC Manufacturing as a Platform Manager.

Tina’s career continued to advance as she joined Quantum as a Production Planning Manager for their disk drives and was there for 8 years. A merger with Maxtor led to a layoff while on assignment overseas in Geneva. Tina had been considering a move into non-profits and the layoff gave her that chance at her church as Director of Family Assimilation.

She loved the work but after a year she realized that she longed for the management structure of a larger company. “I missed the analytical side of business in that role and when they assigned me to manage the budgets, I was thrilled to be using a spreadsheet again,” said Tina.

Here’s where Tina’s tenacity paid off. As the church was downsizing, Tina began telling her friends that not only was she looking for a new job, but what type of job, industry and company. From her actions, a friend emailed an executive at a medical equipment company on her behalf. This executive was also a member of the church and Tina knew his family.

Once the email was sent, Tina knew it was time to act. She contacted the executive, he introduced her to the VP of Manufacturing and she was hired. Tina was there for 5 years as Director, Manufacturing Program Management. In October, the company restructured and Tina was laid off.

After a few weeks of visiting friends and taking some time for herself, Tina got to work on planning her search. She says, “I didn’t even have a PC of my own in the beginning – I borrowed a friend’s and started spending time at the library so I could use their Wifi.”

She started working on her plan: With some help from the outplacement firm the medical equipment company provided, she got her resume set and learned how to best use the internet for her search. She reflected on what she loved doing and the type of company that could match her skills and experience. After going through the Best Companies to Work For lists, she identified her target companies.

“I wanted a large company with some infrastructure, one that was international – I love to travel! – , no start-ups, and a great manager to work for,” she added.

Then she started her spreadsheet. She tracked her target companies, who she knew who worked there, when she contacted them, who she sent resumes & letters to, who she met at Starbuck’s, etc.

“I would tell all my friends what I was looking for! Prayer helped give me the determination to keep going. Someone asked me if I got bored during my time off and I said are you kidding? I’m working 40 hours a week meeting people, spending time having tea and talking to others and following up on referrals from old colleagues and new friends I met.”

She said that LinkedIn was the most helpful website because she could look up all kinds of information once she focused on a company, especially contacts she could meet with to learn more about the opportunities and culture.

During her intense search, a friend from IBM and Quantum sent her job leads. Her friend gave Tina’s resume to the hiring manager just before Christmas. He met with her first, contacted her before the New Year and asked her to come in on the 4th for additional interviews. He made her a verbal offer the next day and she is now working at Cisco.

Total time in her search was a little over 3 months, very good in this market for that type of position.

When asked what single thing most helped her land her job, she said, ” I focused on what I wanted and told everyone I came into contact that. I believe that praying for what I wanted helped make it happen.”

What are you doing in your search to find your job? Please share your success stories 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


Tired of Working for Someone Else? Here’s an East SF Bay Course for Entrepreneurs

January 29, 2010

Not everyone is ready to jump back on the hamster wheel of another corporate job, subject to the whims of the economy, a bad boss or unfulfilling work. There are many resources available in the East Bay for the job seeker, but what if you’ve reached the point that you no longer want to work for someone else and are ready to make the leap to working for yourself?

Steve Goveia, a CPA at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co. has put together an 8 week course covering the major aspects of starting your own business. Together with Greg Vervais of Vervais & Associates, they have delivered the course over the past year resulting in the creation of 45 new businesses.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business — firms with fewer than 500 employees — drives the U.S. economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s private workforce. Small businesses are also the top job creators right now, as the large corporations are still mainly on the sidelines with regards to hiring. So 45 new companies in the East Bay have the potential to add more employees and help fuel more economic recovery.

The course covers the main elements of starting a business – from having the passion for an idea all the way through funding and getting started.

For more information on the class, contact Steve at sgoveia@groco.com.

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


When You Fall in the Mud Puddle, Check Your Pockets for Fish

January 6, 2010

I’ve been talking about Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone ever since I read it last year because it is the best book on relationship marketing and on the value of your personal network. I’ve mentioned him several times, but the following post from his blog is very relevant and captures his philosophy as it applies to those in transition. I am copying it here in its entirety:

Here are four pieces of advice to those who are in transition in their jobs or careers. My wish is that 2010 is full of wonderful transitions – and that more of them are voluntary!

1. You may have heard people say, “If you can think up the question, you can think up the answer.” Your mind and your character are up to any challenge. So focus on answering this question: “How do I make this change the best thing that has ever happened to me?”

2. Reach out to the real relationships in your life. What better time to figure out who they truly are? No one is better positioned to help you consider what’s next – and how to get it. Also have someone really close help you brainstorm around your greatest strengths and weaknesses; these can provide clues and spark ideas.

3. In addition to the career quest, which will inevitably take twists and turns, commit yourself to some personal pursuits that you have been meaning to take on for a long time but never had the time – for example, run a marathon, become an expert in social media, restructure your personal finances, find the charity to which you want to meaningfully commit, help a friend in need, etc. These will become part of your answer to the question in (1) above, and as important, they’ll provide a positive experience and purposefulness every day.

4. Once you figure out what you want, create a long list of people you need to meet to get there. It’s so much easier for your friends to help you by making introductions if you have your “wish list” mapped out on paper. But don’t rush it: No one can ever help you until you know what you want.

Readers: Care to share transition stories? Nothing like a good success story when you’re looking.

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