Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work History Challenges

The subject of work history comes up routinely usually in conjunction with resume writing and applications. This is however only the tip of the iceberg.

Prospective employers will use your work history in any way they can during the decision process. They'll quantify and analyze the information and use their sixth sense (gut feel) as well. They know how people operate and they understand personalities rarely change. The old adage that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior makes work history is a very big deal.

In the article 6 Red Flags Employers See In Your Job History writer Alison Green adds nicely to the work history discussion. Below are her 6 red flag points re-ordered to reflect the reality many of my clients face.
  1. You have large gaps between jobs
  2. You've been unemployed for a while
  3. You quit your last job with nothing else lined up
  4. You have multiple short-term jobs
  5. You were laid off from your last job
  6. None of your past managers are on your reference list
Not infrequently work history and background challenges are related. Together they represent a basket full of issues and barriers that must be overcome. The natural impulse is to somehow "fix" them, to find a work-around.

I suggest the best fix is to accept what is (and work history is indeed something that is what it is) and not something that should be to lied about or spun. Accept it so that you can see it as something that's about to change. If acceptance doesn't happen you run a big risk of continuing along asleep and unaware, moving into the future as if past actions really didn't happen as indicated by your work history.

When you dwell or stew over gaps, periods of unemployment, quit jobs, temp positions, etc., you place yourself where you don't want to be -- in the past which no longer exists. It's done with, it's finished. Your concern should be on you and the service you provide today and each day going forward.

But don't get me wrong, you will be eliminated because of your work history. Alison's points are valid and at the heart of the elimination process. This will happen unceremoniously and quietly. You just won't make it to the next step. What can you expect in this environment where supply (labor) exceeds demand (jobs)? Add to this the fact that HR and Legal are evermore wedged between the candidate and the hiring manager and the row of hurdles can be formidable indeed.

Your goal should be to remove these no-brainer elimination points. Start with gaps. Rid yourself of these thorns by not creating any more of them. This starts now! Your personal mandate must be to discontinue creating red flags. The way you do this is by staying focused on the present and delivering your service.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Job Creation Means What?

Every time I hear politicians talk of  job creation I wonder what exactly they're talking about? It's the creation part that confuses. Other than adding new government positions or government operated programs such as WPA in the 1930s politicians (government) don't create jobs, nor should they try given current deficit concerns. And anyway, we know its not actual job creation that's being discussed, rather its ways to prime the pump of job creation.

Here are two areas where I believe the federal checkbook should be opened and opened big time; infrastructure (particularly transportation) and education (particularly in technical areas). Huge amounts of federal money should be spent in these areas over the next five years give three caveats.

     - money should flow quickly and easily with minimal strings attached

     - the process of how its spent should be fair, efficient and graft free

     - uses should favor labor intensive projects when possible and be tightly targeted

Remaining competitive as a nation and an economy depends on expenditures in these areas. There's no choice really, both must be done.

Everyone, regardless of political party or philosophy, benefits from new and upgraded transportation infrastructure. Projects of this type are the very definition of trickle down economics. People go to work, critical stuff gets built and money is spread throughout the economy. I know, it costs. Fair enough but try not doing it and see how much it costs later on. This is something both parties should be agreeing to do but of course politics has gotten in the way.

As for education, start by identifying where lacks and gaps exist. Employers are saying they have positions but can't find qualified candidates. Identify and target. This should be easy to do considering all the data that's accumulated by just the Department of Labor. Fund the student or fund the program but get on with filling the gaps ASAP. Get creative! Skip traditional colleges unless they adapt and reduce costs. Cut out the middle-men and the fat making the piggies squeal. Make the process brutally efficient.

Bringing jobs back to the US or finding ways to foster the creation of new manufacturing jobs here at home are hot topics. Trade policy, currency rates, tax rates and more should all be part of this discussion. But at the end of the day, we need a top notch transportation infrastructure and an educated workforce to build upon.

Leave job creation to the business world where it resides anyway.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Introductions and The First 3 - 8 Seconds

As they say, one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. I certainly agree although learning seems a more fitting description.

Teaching a series of classes as I do provides an opportunity to revisit basic concepts regularly. Key aspects of a subject, once new, become familiar making presentation of the material easier. Yet with familiarity comes a desire to tweak and modify to better result. A need exists to peel the onion heading further inside toward the heart of the subject.

Making introductions, especially self introductions, is such an area for me. As a subject, its recognizable territory. I teach it, research it and think about it; an unavoidable byproduct to presenting it regularly to others. And yet the more I teach it the more profound it seems. Profound in a "lost art" sense.

I think we began losing this fundamental social skill with the mass use of radio and telephone about one hundred years ago. Fifty years later television changed the face of US society, adding momentum to the trend. Then came the PC era, digitization and the internet. Its possible now for people (living right here among us) to go an entire ... what,  year? ... without interacting face-to-face with another person.

But eventually they have to and the lack of a skill-set is oh-so-apparent.

Part of the material on communication and introductions I present to job seekers is the concept of initial like and dislike. The idea that we form a fundamental pro or con opinion about someone during the first few seconds of meeting them. This certainly isn't original. Just pick up a copy of Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends & Influence People, the works of William James or any number of philosopher thinkers. There's very little new here. Many people have weighed in on the idea that it only takes a few seconds (3 to 8 in my view).

What about you, the job seeker? It's my take that you are a marketer and hopeful seller of your service. You are on the lookout for a customer.

As a seller you need to keep in mind that its a rare event when someone buys something from someone they don't like. This bears repeating: rarely will someone buy something from someone they don't like.

As a job seeker, your goal should be to be liked.

If so, how can you ignore the first 3 to 8 seconds?

And these first few seconds frequently come during the introduction.

I will have lots to say about introductions going forward.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Worst Type of Elimination

And what is it?

Eliminating yourself.

And what's even worse is not knowing that you did it. Being clueless.

More often than not this is why people don't get hired. They do something that results in their elimination.

Easy examples of this include; improperly completing an application, missing a deadline, being late for an interview. Overt, bonehead moves that make it easy to drop an applicant.

Less obvious but leading to the same result are; applying for positions you are not qualified for, not stating in the cover letter/email that you meet the requirements, following up by phone instead of showing up in person.

Job One for the prospective employer is to eliminate you. Nothing personal here, just a matter of cutting down the pile (at least initially). Furthermore, the odds favor their continued use of the same until there's only one candidate remaining.

Accept this and build around it. Do everything right. Afford the other team no opportunity or reason to prematurely remove you from the running. Take a page out of Mike Shanahan's Super Bowl XXXII playbook and use a prevent defense as a major part of your offense (in spite of John Madden's opinion to the contrary).

But what about confidence and selling yourself? Confidence, tempered and objective based, yes. Selling yourself? No, not yet. It is too easy to forget the elimination game plan of the other team when you are overly focused on JUST putting points on the board.

Move beyond the idea of selling yourself and devise an approach that incorporates two things.

First, use a prevent defense as offense. Know that staying in the game is the game.

Second, employ a marketing based approach that shows (by how you roll) you understand the game.

As to this last point, keep in mind that nothing gets sold before it's marketed.Your services are no different.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell