Monday, November 26, 2012

Planning - For Job Search and Beyond

Planning your job search pays off. As with most other endeavors, looking before you leap results in a far better outcome than just plunging over the edge.

There are two planning related considerations to take into account. First is the actual job search plan of attack. Your Objective becomes very important when you map out your campaign (see labels for posts related to Job Search Objective) because it lays out in detail what it is you are trying to achieve. Imagine throwing things in gear without a clear idea of what it is you are out to accomplish? Sadly it happens all the time when it comes to searching for a job.

The second consideration is the longer term view and for this I like to work with a five year vocational goal. In a nutshell, what do you plan on doing and where, in five years?

Your Job Search Objective is immediate in nature, it's what you are working on right now - and - it should fit in with your five year plan. Surely there are times when you must move quickly, doing something that may not fully align with your longer term goal. This falls under the crisis category. Its the need to line up a job and income asap. Most of us have been there.

However in most cases, linking your immediate Job Search Objective with your longer term five year goal is possible if you take the time to do it. Remember that you are really an independent free agent in search of a customer (potential employer). This means you are in business for yourself operating in the marketplace just like all other businesses. Most successful businesses engage in planning, why not you? Why is it that many people bump along from job to job re-actively with little or no planning, short term or long term?

This won't do. First of all, make the effort and take the time to define your Job Search Objective. Let this be your guide to planning out the step by step process of searching for the job that best fits this objective.

I will have much to say in future posts concerning the nuts and bolts of searching. For now, I want to convey the importance of connecting your immediate need (a job now) with your longer term need (your five year vocational goal). The bottom line is that it is very important and you shouldn't skip doing it.

Also, don't overlook how an immediate and perhaps pressing need can assist you in developing a longer term goal. Bang it out, stating the what and where of this goal clearly. Work backwards to the present. Connect the dots. Get serious and determined. Become edgy about it. Searching for a job can bring game to your game. There can be anxiety but also clarity. Things and considerations not really important are easier to cut out during the heat of the moment, and job searching can bring the heat.

Life planning is tricky. Stuff happens. There are lots and lots of moving parts. Defining longer term life goals can be a real challenge. What's more, once started its easy to get tangled up in the net of the planning process. Nonetheless, do your best to prevent this by staying focused on doing Vs thinking. Plan and do. Then tweak and do again, working steadily toward your Objective.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, November 16, 2012

Being a Free Agent and the Hollywood Model

While researching and writing the chapter on being a free agent job searcher for my upcoming ebook, I came across an interesting and quite apropos example of where the world of work is heading in the US.

Hollywood - which provides an example that's analogous to how things have gone with for American workforce over the last 70 years or so.

The golden years of the big fully integrated studios were the ‘30's and 40’s. Like integrated industrial America, they provided long term employment for actors and workers alike. But technology and specialization took over in the ‘60's and ’70's and the big integrated studio model became outmoded and eventually evolved into what we see today, near total free agency.

Projects in the new Hollywood come together using individual specialists and micro-companies. They last 4 to 6 months then disband with the individual players going their own ways, all the while seeking their next gig through continuous networking and connections.

These new Hollywood pros and specialists must make due during these inevitable periods of no work between gigs (unemployment). This is accomplished via a pay scale that takes this into account and an understanding that this is how it works. In other words, those participating know the rules. They don't expect or bank on what's not permanent.

Contrast this with many displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers struggling today and you can understand why I recommend taking on a similar perspective. That is to say, see yourself as these movie business people do, as a free agent niche specialist that moves from project to project, not someone who settles in letting their saw become dull.

Hopefully your gigs will last longer, 4 to 6 years instead of months. But still, don't expect anything longer than this and don't settle in. Like the new Hollywood folks, put out maximum effort while the job lasts but remain in continuous search mode the entire time. You will be both a better employee and independent free agent for it.

Travel well.

John Jeffrey Lundell   

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Follow-Ups and Marketing

Many Las Vegas clients pursue jobs in the hospitality industry, particularly food & beverage. Clearly some are in the lower-skills categories but certainly not all. I would characterize lots of them as being middle-skills jobs which can lead to solid career opportunities. See my 11/1/12 post.

Consequently I spend a fair amount of time coaching job searchers in this area. Recall that middle-skills jobs have the following characteristics: they are service oriented, not easily out-sourced, and typically require interpersonal interaction. Considering these points, is it any wonder that old fashioned face-to-face job search techniques - when employed and well executed - produce such positive results?

I recommend a simple three step approach.

First, walk right in and introduce yourself to the applicable manager. Keep your resume handy and produce it when appropriate. If you know there's an opening before showing up, compete the application beforehand. Otherwise, wait until you are there (or later) to apply for whatever position you learn about on your visit.

The second step is to follow-up in person (always) unless expressly told otherwise. Going back (Vs calling or emailing) is extremely important because it demonstrates your interest and gives the other party an opportunity to get another look at you. I mean this literally, an opportunity to once again check you out directly and in real time.

The third step is to do a second in-person follow-up (which is to say, a follow-up of the initial follow-up).

All the while you are making these contacts, note that you aren't selling (your services) yet. No. What you are doing at this stage is marketing. This boils down to influencing the other party's opinion by demonstrating positive and heads-up behavior each time you make contact.

Marketing not selling. It is creating interest not cutting to the bottom-line.

Marketing to prospective employers (buyers) in service categories such as food & beverage means being likable and consistent in your approach. Clearly if they don't like you they will not want you interacting with their customers. Seriously people, this is a matter of common sense but you'd be surprised ...

What about consistency? Let's say the first contact went well and they appear to like you. What next? Consistency, that's what. Your objective should be to execute all follow-ups and other contacts in the same manner; no changes, no surprises, no additional variables added. A positive initial impression needs to be reinforced and enhanced. The other party wants to see the same person, each and every time. So deliver!

Remember the hiring formula: Past + Present = Future. Every in-person, real time contact you make has a Present value. You have no ability to change or re-write Past events, but you most certainly do have the ability to execute in the Present.

Be likable and be consistent in how you roll, striving to hit the consistency target dead center each and every time.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Middle-Skills, Jobs ... and Politics

1,200 plus Community College Locations
My post Job Creation Means What? touched on the need for targeted educational funding in order to set the stage for job creation. In effect this referred to funding middle-skills training on a massive scale using the community college system.

Middle-skill workers are individuals with some college education or an associate's degree, who are often needed to fill critical jobs in areas such as healthcare (nurses, EMTs, therapists), education (teachers assistants), information technology (network administrators, computer support specialists) and other growing occupations. These jobs require some specialized skills and often involve interpersonal interaction that cannot be easily outsourced or automated.

The two operative phrases are specialized skills and interpersonal interaction. They are very much service related which is no surprise given that the majority of middle-skills positions do fall into the service category. In fact this class of jobs conforms to what was envisioned a couple decades ago when the notion of a service economy first came into common use.

However the transition from the old manufacturing economy to the new service economy has been a slow and bumpy ride, hindered by the internet bubble popping in 2000 and the real estate debacle beginning in late 2007. Clearly we are in the midst of an economic paradigm shift and the take-away of this move to a service economy is still up for grabs for many Americans.

In the meantime there's a shortage of middle-skilled workers today and the supply/demand imbalance is projected to grow substantially over the next 5 to 10 years. When businesses talk about not being able to find enough qualified workers (in spite of the current economic conditions) the lack of prepared middle-skilled workers is in part what they're talking about.

This is a big deal and not without common shared interest.

- businesses need and want workers with these skills

- aspiring workers need training and jobs

- government wants to spur re-employment while bolstering national competitiveness

- community colleges need the help, given the condition of state and local budgets

The Obama Administration proposed the American Graduation Initiative in the summer of 2009, a $12 billion, ten year plan to beef up community colleges nationwide with an eye on middle-skills training. The proposal didn't make it out of the meat grinder that produced Obama Care. You'd have to dig to know much about the original plan, an important and timely woulda-coulda-shoulda. Furthermore you'd need to be a policy junkie or a community college administrator to follow developments of the remnants of the initiative, the Department of Labor's TAACCCT program (what an acronym) a $2 billion career training plan rolling out slowly to selected community colleges. 

The American Graduation Initiative was a big step in the right direction. But it wasn't big enough. Twice that much or more is required and implementation needs to be quicker than the proposed 10 year period.

As noted in my October 20 blog post, spending on infrastructure and this type of targeted educational support (middle-skills) are badly needed and offer something for everybody.

Maybe after the election next week ...

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell