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
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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
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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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Weekly Roundup of Top 3 Job Search Tips

November 13, 2009

Each Friday, I’ll be posting the top 3 job search tips I’ve found from the scores of blog posts I see and will pass them along. Also, I will be looking for your votes on which is your favorite. Feel free to forward this link to your friends in transition.

 

So, here are my top three this week:

Meg Giuseppi’s blog Executive Resume Branding has the The 20 Most Common LinkedIn Mistakes

Here’s an excerpt:

You probably know by now that LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for personal branding and executive job search.

In case you don’t, get busy immediately building your branded profile, connecting with people, expressing your executive brand, and leveraging LinkedIn to full advantage.

But don’t make these 20 mistakes:

BUILDING YOUR PROFILE

1.  Not personalizing your LinkedIn public profile URL.
Many people leave the default mess of letters and numbers at the end of the URL. Change that to “yourname” or as close to it as you can come, as I did with mine – http://www.linkedin.com/in/megguiseppi

2.  Not including a photo.
Branding and career marketing are about creating emotional connections. People believe content more when it’s accompanied by the author’s photo. An online profile with no photo is a missed opportunity to reinforce your brand and engage people.

3.  Not adding links to websites or web pages.
Include links to your website, blog, VisualCV, Twitter or other online profiles, so people can get more on-brand information about you and see what else you’re up to.

4.  Not having a searchable professional headline that brands your unique promise of value and resonates with your target audience.
Make sure your relevant key word phrases show up in your headline so that recruiters and hiring decision makers sourcing top candidates by searching LinkedIn will find you.

5.  Having no (or only 1 or 2) recommendations.
Solicit recommendations that reinforce your brand and the best you have to offer.

For the 15 other tips and rest of her post, click here.

Next is Dawn Jordan’s post in the Wall Street Journal’s Blog, Laid Off and Looking – authored by a series of guest bloggers describing their job search efforts and thoughts. Here’s her post in it’s entirety:

Last week a friend told me about the most unlikely place he found a job. It was during his child’s swim meet when a fellow parent casually asked what he did and where he worked. That impromptu poolside conversation turned into a new job for my friend.

His story segued into a conversation on unconventional sources for job leads. It also motivated me to try something different. Since then I’ve been asking people “What was the most unlikely place you found a job?”

They’ve answered with stories ranging from encounters during dog walks to waiting in line at Starbucks. Some of the stories were about situations in which I’m unlikely to find myself. But even those answers produced three tangible benefits.

First, it put people at ease. I wasn’t asking for a favor. I was showing an interest in them, giving them an opportunity to talk about themselves. This two-way sharing generated a stronger connection than my usual approach ever had.

Second, the question fired up their creative thinking. It got them out of the passive listener role and most of their answers were interesting and helpful. Before I could even ask, most offered additional suggestions about professional organizations, job boards or, best of all, names of people they would contact for me.

Here is the real gem in all of this. Asking people about their own experiences evoked empathy, support and action. They instantly remembered their own anxiety during their job search. It elicited a quicker, stronger, and warmer response than I’ve experienced before.

The takeaway of this experiment is the optimistic reminder that I never know when or where opportunity may strike. The real challenge might be recognizing it.

Fianlly, I love this post from Seth Godin, Hammer time

While not specifically about job search, his lessons on our background and our filters and biases point out how we need to adapt to changing situations. Amen.

Hammer time

So, if it’s true that to a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, the really useful question is, “what sort of hammer do you have?”

At big TV networks, they have a TV hammer. At a surgeon’s office, they have the scalpel hammer. A drug counselor has the talk hammer, while a judge probably has the jail hammer.

Maybe it’s time for a new hammer…

One study found that when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery, physical therapists thought that therapy was indicated and yes, acupuncturists were sure needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn’t symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor.

When the market changes, you may be seeing all the new opportunities and problems the wrong way because of the solutions you’re used to. The reason so many organizations have trouble using social media is that they are using precisely the wrong hammer. And odds are, they will continue to do so until their organization fails. PR firms try to use the new tools to send press releases, because, you guessed it, that’s their hammer.

It’s not just about new vs. old. Inveterate community-focused social media mavens often bring that particular hammer to other venues. So they crowdsource keynote speeches or restaurants or board meetings and can’t figure out why they don’t have the impact others do.

The best way to find the right tool for the job is to learn to be good at switching hammers.

Which is your favorite?
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