Think Beyond Networking

You’ve heard it before; you need to be out networking. Perhaps you are scared or dislike doing it. Everyone is telling you to do it but for some reason you just can’t seem to get yourself out of the house to meet with people.

istock_000006168535xsmallConsider this – what does networking mean to you? Does it represent a crowded room with people you really don’t care about? Do you feel uncomfortable with initiating conversation or feel like you are constantly selling yourself and no one is buying? Think about what networking really represents to you. Write it down.

Now – let’s fast forward and assume that you are the best networker on this planet. You have reached the place you want to be – where is that? Are you in the job you want, have the life you dream of? What does that place look like? What does it represent to you? Safety? Security? Is it a place where you feel like you have arrived? Take a moment to visualize this place or ground yourself in the feeling – really connect with what it is like to be there.

Guess what? You have found what is beyond networking. That’s right; networking can be a means to an end – to be in the place you want.

Your challenge will be to push through that place where you feel stuck so you can reap the rewards of networking. To do that, you may have to acquire some skills or take some risks. It might be time to commit yourself to a new path – to do something different because what you have done is clearly not working.

You may have to get out of your comfort zone and head out into the unknown…and open yourself to being curious about how new experiences may open doors to getting to that place – the place where you have arrived.

Are You the First Interview? Close the Gap

Let’s say you are the first interview for a position with a company. When you arrive, the interviewer is not fully prepared. It is obvious that he doesn’t interview often. These two factors often point to an ill-fated interview experience.

istock_000006916716xsmallDespite the odds being stacked against you, the two of you have instant rapport. The conversation is easy and you can see yourself working there. During the discussion, he says all the right things such as “when you come back for the second interview, you will be talking to some other people” and he proceeds to tell you about them.

At the end of the interview, it’s time to ask about what to expect for next steps. He tells you that he will be interviewing three more people and hopes to invite the second round interview candidates the following week. You leave feeling that you have nailed the first interview, send your thank you note and await a call back.

Here’s the tip I want to share with you. I recommend contacting the interviewer at the beginning of next week before the second interview call back. Here is why.

You were the first interview for the position. Your inexperienced interviewer was getting his feet wet with you. While you had great rapport, he will get better at interviewing and will ask other questions that you may not have the opportunity to answer. Some of those answers may tilt the odds out of your favor.

Send your interviewer a note or call them and leave a message to let them know the following:

You realize that you were the first person to be interviewed by him and there may be some questions that arise with subsequent interviews that are important. You are available for a quick phone call to answer any of those questions so that they have all the information available before your decision on second round interviews.

It is a good practice to close any gaps in information prior to a company or interviewer moving to the next step. If you don’t you may just find you have been edged out.

Being Out of Work

This week, I received a letter from an Elephants at Work reader. I wanted to share their story because being out of work affects the family not just the person who is out of work. At the end of this post, I suggest some helpful tips.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being FiredMy husband has been out of work for 2 years.  He was involuntarily terminated from his job. His salary was our family’s primary source of income. This entire situation has been a nightmare for all of us.

I have watched my husband become frustrated and mad at the world for different reasons.  Our home is filled with anxiety and tension. My children are teenagers and they have been directly impacted by our financial instability. My husband has filled out many job applications and each time the answer is the same…. no job offer.

My husband was a police officer for 15 years. Now, I don’t think my husband even knows who he is anymore. Clearly, we need help to find out how to help him get back on track. We can’t afford a consultation, but I will order your book.

I hope it provides us with answers, suggestions and tips about how to effectively fill out job applications. I prayed this morning and asked God for more guidance regarding my husband’s job loss. Then, a few moments later I came across Elephants at Work.  Hope your book helps us! THANK YOU.

Name withheld

The situation this ex-police officer and his family are facing may be what you are facing too. I would like to address two things about this letter – first the loss of ego and self from the husband and second, the effects of being out of work on the family.

I am not surprised your husband is questioning who he is after being out of work for two years. I have seen loss of ego and self in the unemployed in as little as a day. It is like a switch flipped.

Many people define who they are by the work that they do. When you lose your job, it takes a big blow to the ego. You deal with employer rejection and you try to figure out how to move forward. It is a chaotic time internally. You feel like you have lost your purpose in life.

For family providers and breadwinners – their role suddenly changes within the family dynamics. It requires families to rethink their lifestyle until they are able to secure employment. Sometimes the levels of pay they enjoyed are unobtainable and those lifestyle changes become permanent.

Let’s not ignore what is going on in the family. The changes of lifestyle affect them too. There may be arguments about money and sacrifices that family members endure that they don’t understand. For teenagers it is difficult because their peers may be able to do things they knew they could do if only… their father or mother were working. It is those unspoken thoughts that create more stress and conflict.

The culmination of these two things – the loss of work that defines someone and the changes in the role within the family create the perfect storm.

Here are some recommendations for you, your husband and family:

  • Your husband has a right to be mad and angry after being fired or laid off. It is important to figure out how to let go of that anger too. The anger will show up in an interview. Employers will sense anger and it may be a reason why he is not getting hired.
  • The loss of self and ego is real. It is a scary proposition to have to figure out who you really are when you thought you had it all together. Being out of work is catalyst to rethink priorities and to figure out what is really important to you. When you figure this out, you gain confidence and the path on how to get there becomes easier.
  • Engage the family in open dialogue and discussion about the elephant in the room – the financial situation and effect on each person. Have the discussion when everyone is calm – not during an incident. Ask everyone to do some homework ahead of time. Write down what is working well and what is not working well for them and share it with one another during your discussion. Have the kids share their information first. If they are hesitant, ask them to put their thoughts into a jar and one by one pull out a comment and discuss it. It will challenge you and your husband to be receptive to their thoughts and not to pass judgment. It is what they are feeling and is just as real as what both of you are feeling. The ability to air our concerns in a safe environment builds trust and unity. Together, all of you can decide what can be done and what cannot be done given your specific limitations.
  • Find a way to celebrate every small step or win. If you focus only on getting the job, it becomes overwhelming. Take every “no” as an opportunity to learn and develop your skills sets.

Finally, thank you for placing your trust and faith in my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired – I know that you will find many solutions to help you along this journey.

Informational Interviews as a Job-hunting Strategy

A secret weapon for any job-hunter or job explorer is the informational interview. It is different from a job interview. Informational interviews can be very effective – with a caveat I learned last week.

istock_000006916716xsmallFirst, let’s explore what an informational interview is and what it is not.

Informational interviews are opportunities:

  1. To learn from someone in a field that you would like to explore or want to work in. There are many paths to getting the career you want – find out what worked for them.
  2. To be curious about how someone got to where they are in their career. Why did they choose the company they are working for today? What were some of the most valuable lessons they learned along the way? Interviews that are focused on the other person – not you.
  3. To learn about an organization that you are interested in – the structure, the management style, the mission etc.
  4. To grow your professional network. Perhaps in the future, this person may remember your selfless approach and throw a lead or suggestion your way. Remember to follow-up with a Thank You card.

Here’s what informational interviews are not:

  1. Job interviews. This is not the place to ask someone if they have a job opening or to sell your job qualifications. If the conversation heads in that direction because the other person initiated it, then by all means express your interest.
  2. Long in duration. The typical informational interview is about 15-30 minutes in length. It is short enough not to impose on someone and long enough for you to develop rapport and learn something about the person that is helpful to your job search efforts.
  3. Always welcomed. Know if the area you are looking at is receptive to informational interviews. There are wide differences to what is acceptable and not acceptable in different parts of the country.

As an example, I recently moved from Rochester NY to Charlotte NC. In Rochester, informational interviews are a well-accepted networking strategy. However, it appears in Charlotte, there is less acceptance for this type of networking. A friend recently asked a local job coach and they confirmed that the approach in Charlotte is more task vs. relationship driven when agreeing to a day meeting. The best place to meet people is through established networking groups found on Meetup.com or through other established job search groups.

If you are new to an area or are new to the job-hunting process, there are some places where you can ask about what is acceptable and what is not before trying to engage someone in an informational interview. Check out the local job groups, city unemployment services and career coaches for advice.

What is a Good Starting Salary?

It’s finally the moment you have been waiting for…the company is interested in you and they are going to make you a salary offer – what should you expect as your starting salary?

Assortment of American CoinsThis question comes up often and it is important to know the facts about how companies come up with that magical number. You might think that they have a secret dartboard in the back room (which may be true for very small companies) and hope you are lucky someone knows how to hit the bull’s eye. The truth is it is much more complicated than that.

The secret to knowing what is a good starting salary is finding the intersection between what the company is willing to pay and what you are worth.

If you are going after a position that is below what you have performed, be prepared to lower your expectations. That same advice may also hold true if you have been in a position for a long time because your salary has probably crept up over the years and companies may not be looking for someone with as much experience (also translated as someone with a higher salary).

From a company perspective, starting salaries are a combination of several factors.

The Position or Job

The position or job you are applying for will have a specific wage or salary range associated with it. That specific wage or salary range is based on a number of factors:

  • Scope of Job. How much responsibility is there in this job? Does it deal with a single task or complex tasks? Other factors impacting scope include – sales, number of direct reports, profit/loss responsibilities, matrix relationships, size of company, etc.
  • Level of job. Where does it fit in the organizational structure? While a job title may be descriptive, some companies have adopted generic titles and it is more difficult to decide where the level of the job is unless you see the organizational structure. Is this position over one or several departments, functions, divisions, or locations?
  • Market Competitiveness. Savvy companies will survey the local or national market to make sure their pay is competitive. It is important to note that when organizations do this type of analysis they account for all pay types — salary, bonus, stock options, benefits etc.

The Human Resources Department or Compensation Specialist in an organization is responsible for establishing and reviewing salary structures periodically to stay competitive and to aid in retention activities. There is some flexibility in the starting salary in large companies and how flexible they are depends on how badly they want you.

What Are You Worth (to the Company)?

This is a tough question because our ego gets in the way! The most common way to evaluate what you are worth is to look at your last salary.

While that may be a great first step, consider if you are making significant changes in the type of work you will be doing (scope) or if you are moving to a lower cost of living location. Many of these factors go into what you are worth (at least from the company’s perspective).

Try thinking about this question with a different angle if you are having trouble getting the pay you believe you deserve. Here are some questions to think about.

  • What specific skills are you bringing to the job?
  • Are those skills rare or different from other people applying for the job?
  • Are you able to articulate them if you have to counter your starting salary offer?
  • Is the company asking you to perform at the level you were performing in your last company?
  • Is the company a mature company or new venture?
  • What is the size the company – how does that company with your last company? Smaller companies have lower starting salaries.

Finally, consider if is salary the most important part of working for this company. These other quality of work  factors have a big influence on overall happiness:

  1. Benefits
  2. Working from home
  3. Flexible work schedule
  4. Great company culture
  5. Great boss
  6. Low stress
  7. Work/life balance

When you factor in these considerations, revisit the question – What is the intersection between what the company is willing to pay as a starting salary vs. what you are worth? Do you have a little more leeway?

Help Absolutely Abby’s 2015 Tour Be Successful

I met Absolutely Abby a couple of years ago when she came to Rochester, NY. Since then, she’s been back three times. Two months ago, I moved to Charlotte, NC and she’s already been there too.

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Abby is on a mission. It’s very simple. She wants to help one million (1,000,000) people get back to work. She figures she has said no to at least that many when she was a recruiter and could only hire one person for a job. She’s looking to pay it forward by helping others be successful.

Talking to that many people is a lot of work. It requires her to travel across the country and find places and organizations where she can speak and share her secrets. She has lots of secrets to share – I have heard most of her presentations and every time she leaves people in a better place to land their next job. She tells them what companies and recruiters won’t tell you. Armed with that information, it puts you in a better position to navigate murky job hunting waters.

Here are some of the articles I have shared over the years about her talks:

To continue her work, she needs the support of YOU and OTHERS. Every bit helps – just a $5 pledge from 15,000 people would help her reach her goal of $75,000.

I spoke with her today about not knowing she had the crowd-sourcing campaign running because we’ve become friends. If I don’t know, then I know others don’t know. She says asking for help is uncomfortable. I get it. You get it. The only way we can help someone feel good about asking for help is to help them when they do ask.

I like to think of my personal contribution as a pay it forward. I have not needed her help personally because I am not out of work. However, I have worked with many people who have benefited from her sage advice. I am sure you have too and if not, all the more reason to keep her on tour to get to your friends, family and colleagues.

There are only a few days left for YOU to make a difference and pay it forward to someone who is looking for work.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do to help Abby reach 1,000,000 people:

  1.  Visit Absolutelyabby.com/tour2015 and watch the video.
  2. Share this link on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles and tell them why contributing $5 will help one million people get back to work.
  3. Blog about how Abby’s efforts help our workforce to become stronger.
  4. Share the site via email with everyone that you know that can afford $5 –family members, employed friends, college alumni, etc. Ask them to give $5 and to share the link on their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles.

Know that when you’re done, you have paid it forward to someone who needs help to find a job and will be thankful for your generosity.

Lose the Career Objective Statement on Your Resume

It is passé. Bottom line: having a career objective statement on your resume does not tell the interviewer anything about what you can do for the company. A career objective statement is all about you and the company wants to know what you can do for them NOW.

It may sound cold, but the fact is fewer companies are looking for stellar talent that they can grow internally. In the past, when companies where fueling management development programs an objective statement on your resume might have served well to identify you as someone who could be groomed or had high aspirations of a steep career trajectory. Here’s an example of a career objective statement:

Seeking a role to advance to a Senior Management position in a technology based company.

This statement implies you are seeking a company that can meet your needs – career advancement. Times have changes, the trend is career growth comes from moving from company to company which makes this statement obsolete.

What Replaces the Objective Statement on Your Resume?

It is far better to state your value proposition or what skills, results, relationships or competencies that you bring to the company that is unique or worth them hiring you. Your opening statement must grab the interviewer’s attention or guess what…you are in the deep six pile.

One of the best ways to write a killer value statement is to look at your list of accomplishments and think about which one of those might be applicable to the company you are sending your resume to. With a little rework, you can craft a new killer value statement for each resume!

The point of a resume is to get noticed – and be asked in for an interview. When you lose the career objective statement on your resume, there is an opportunity to put your best forward in the place that counts – the beginning paragraph of the page. Tailoring your resume to the job or company shows you put some thought into demonstrating on your resume that you understand the job requirements and have a good idea how to make a positive impact.