Monday, April 23, 2007

Don't Give Up

I began thinking about posting this based on an entry in Jason Alba's Jibber Jobber Blog. He comments on not losing sight of what is important in your personal life when in a job search or for that matter under any kind of serious stress. It reminded me of the perspective you gain from seeing others go through problems and how they handle them.

Last time I was in London, I spent a very long afternoon at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms underneath the Houses of Parliament. Churchill had this underground bunker built during WWII to manage the war effort while London was being bombed. If you ever have the chance to go, do yourself a favor and go there, spend the afternoon and drink it in. There is more to learn about how we got to where we are today and what it takes to stand for and maintain the values of our culture than in any classroom I have ever been in.

We most often think of Churchill through the lens of history as the much regaled, gruff Prime Minister of England, who led them with inspring speeches promising nothing but "blood, toil, tears and sweat", but he is an excellent role model for the job seeker as well.

He had excellent family connections, an illustrious early career beginning as a journalist and winning his first seat in Parliament in 1900 at 26. He had much political success including First Lord of the Admiralty, but his great goal of Prime Minister eluded him and in 1929 at age 55 he was out of office with no hope of return, then lost his fortune in the crash of 1929. He thought that all was lost - but did not give up. These times are chronicled in a great series by BBC entitled "The Wilderness Years" Instead he developed a second career as a writer, speaker and commentator, spending a great deal of time in America and warning everyone who would listen about the threat of Nazi Germany. His determination is evident in his quote: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

All over 50 job seekers should take a page from this book and use their skills, talents and sagacity to find work - rather than just a job.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What a great day to network

What a great day it was today! Nice weather has finally arrived in the Northeast and it was a beautiful day in Long Island. We got some sandwiches, went to one of our favorite wineries and ate our sandwich, drank some wine and enjoyed the great weather. We had a nice chat with the couple next to us, who were doing the same thing. Its one of the best parts about the East End of Long Island and I enjoy as much of it as I can.

I have learned to really enjoy meeting new people and finding out about them. I have recently finished reading Keith Ferrazzi's book "Never Eat Alone" and from it I have learned that one of the benefits about seeking a new position is the opportunity to meet and interface with so many other people who are out there looking. We all need help and since I have learned a few lessons in this process, I am able to help others out and get rewards myself.

I am too often shocked by the folks who don't follow the simple rules of engagement in this process. It seems that using a computer removes from people all the basic elements of human engagement and they forget that manners and consideration are all important in making new connections. Always try to look at it from the other persons point of view, if the person is busy - be very considerate of their time and make sure that you are adding value to them.

Ines Mergel made a great post about this on her blog the other day "Career Networking - puh - do I have to be nice to everyone?" Some people violate basic rules on a regular basis and make us all look bad. The good news is that you can stand out by doing it right, being considerate and having something to say.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Love Letters to my new boss

Once upon a time, I found what appeared to be a nearly perfect opportunity and got the interview. I was very well qualified, probably too qualified, but they are located EXACTLY where I want to live. Its a very well managed company, in the right industry, in my target size range. The interview went great, they clearly indicated I was probably the best qualified candidate, started discussing salary expectations while I was still there.... then silence.

What in the hell went wrong???

As the candidate I have several options, but basically it boils down to 1.) wait for them to act, or 2.) be proactive and make the offer happen. The best case scenario for any candidate is to take the proactive choice. I am not talking about begging for a job, I don't beg. Nothing is as hopeless and unappealing than desperation.

In any interview situation, you must make the connection. The candidate sets themselves apart by making the interviewer feel good about themselves when they are with you. If this sounds disingenuous, its not, it's developing a relationship. Its like dating or "courting" to use an older term, and I am not the only one who believes this. Check out David Perry's blog "Job Hunting is just like courting"

So, back to my specific situation; I made the connection in the interview, but I oversold it a little and made them uncomfortable. This was the killer and it would have undone the whole thing without some proactive work. I wrote a love letter to my prospective boss. Nothing flowery, but a simple statement that really I was approachable and wanted the job. I would love to be a part of your team. I did this by e-mail and got nothing back - lets face it - e-mail is really impersonal. So I called, and it took quite a few times to get through, but it worked. I sold the product (me) and got the offer!

I must admit I was skeptical, but it worked and with an actual offer on paper, then you can negotiate. This is a subject for another blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Yes, Virgina, There is discourtesy in the employment process.

Recruiters are often Rude

This post may seem a little cynical, but it's not been such a good day. I have posted before on recruiter's behavior and answered posts from others on recruiters behaviors. It's still very surprising to me sometimes how things can go these days.

John Lucht of Rites of Passage fame, says "Encountering rudeness? It’s not new. It’s not you. Cope! "

Well, John, I am coping, but it is still surprising. Considering that the recruiter stands to make a fee of 25- 33% of a candidate's first year salary, you would really expect them to treat you with more respect. Candidates are in fact their lifeblood. I have even had this experience even with some I believed to be in a trust relationship.

Now all this being said, I truly believe in developing trust relationships with professional recruiters. Helping them will pay big dividends to the people they place and eventually to me by unlocking the jobs that only recruiters are going to get. That being said, too often you are only interesting to them as long as the client is interested in you - those are not the recruiters with whom I am developing trust relationships. All I expect is mutual respect and there are a few professionals out there who deliver it and get it from me. The rest, well ..... I will still work with them, for now.

Maybe its just that the employment process involves communication between humans and this is hard enough just between two people trying to understand one another, never mind when a third party with a different set of interests gets involved, now throw in money and career progression; its sort of amazing that we ever come to terms.

As hiring managers we KNOW that the recruiter has a vested interest and that makes their recommendation suspect. The best of the retained recruiters see this as a very long term game, the newly placed executive will be an advocate for them in their new position, the poor ones are much like real estate agents and used car salesmen they are actually motivated by a quick hire, rather than the best long term hire.

This is a bit of a rant, but it is a great frustration for all who must deal with these people. I have found a few very good recruiters, people who I trust and will be honest. The others are not worth dealing with.

So What to Do?

So what do we do about this? Network, Network, Network. Dave Opton over at Six Figure Learnings speaks about this all the time, this is a good blog to read Networking and Root Canals.

I think it takes a little longer to find a job by networking, if you have not already established a network, but once your network is established and you are busily building relationships, then new opportunities will be easier to find. I got a call from a very good friend of mine the other day asking if I would be willing to "mentor" someone else in their new job search. They felt that my experience would be valuable to the person in the new search. I am really anxious to do this, I think I will get much more out of it than the mentee.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The EMBA Question - is it worth it?

I was reading in the WSJ a few weeks ago about the compression of the EMBA program. Experienced executives are having a hard time meeting the demands of work and fitting the EMBA curriculum into their schedules. Schools are compressing the schedule to get it all in in a shorter period. Getting on the Fast TrackTo an Executive M.B.A. By Ronald Alsop

I was thinking that there are quite a few senior executives in my same position; having been consumed in working hard for smaller companies that did not have time to sponsor me in an EMBA program. I wondered if it would be worth the investment today to get the EMBA degree or is there just not enough return? I was discussing this with my older sister and suggested I might be too old to make it worthwhile - she was apparently offended by my suggestion that I was "too old" considering what this would mean for her, so I had to explain that too old was not about age, but about ROI.

So to get an expert's opinion, I sent a message off to Ron Alsop at WSJ and apparently I was not the only one. The answers to this compelling question is in the next article Is Earning an Executive M.B.A.Past the Age of 50 Worth It?

I would love to hear comments on this - please let me know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A very cool video from Neal Adams

This post has absolutely nothing whatever to do with job searching, but it is so cool that everyone needs to see it. Flies in the face of conventional science - you can't watch this without wondering

Internet Presence - Yet another day

Working on a career transition is not easy - but it is cathartic and it certainly helps to provide much needed focus on what is truly important, what you really want to do, what your goals really are. There is a book out "Stumbling on Happiness" showing that we don't really know what we want - if we got what we think we want, we would be miserable. Guess what - when you are in transition you still need to think about it.

Job Search = Sales and Marketing Job
I don't have to tell anyone in job transition that the old adage "Finding a job IS a job" is true. What else is true is that finding a job is a Sales and Marketing job - I have never had a sales and marketing job and I have not been trained to do it. I am an engineer with lots of business experience, but not a sales and marketing guy.

Well I am learning to be a Sales and Marketing guy - the hard way - I am learning to do sales and marketing on myself, probably the hardest product to work with, we are not unbiased observers of ourselves. So, how do you do this? Get some training. I have hired a coach to help me do it right. Tiger Woods has a coach and he is a better golfer than I am a job searcher - I deserve a coach. I used Execunet to find the coach, but there are other ways as well.

Internet Presence
My latest endeavor is to increase my own internet presence so that I actually exist on the internet. Its not actually that complicated, but its not simple either. There are two really good sites devoted to help on this topic.

Ron Bates, who is the most connected guy on LinkedIn, sponsors two great sites on improving your job search CV-Advantage and Search-Advantage. Both provide excellent instruction for getting an internet presence in a few weeks. He is also a very helpful guy and runs a successful executive search firm. I am following his advice and have had some good results.

Eric Wolfram also has a site that provides excellent instructions on getting improved internet visibility - his is mostly focused on a business, but the same rules apply.

Hope all this helps all the active job seekers out there - e-mail me if I can help you more directly.

Jim Rowland

Monday, March 26, 2007

Its a brand new day

This is my very first post on this blog, or on any other blog for that matter. I will be sharing my experiences, my insights what is interesting... etc.

I am in transition for about 5 months now, a strange experience for anyone who has ever been there. Its not for the faint of heart. I have not searched for a job in 20 years and all the rules have changed. I have learned an entirely new vocabulary and an entirely new skill set. For all the internet activity these days, internet job boards are the worst place in the world to find a job.

I will be sharing my experiences with searching for a new job and hopefull finding one, then doing the new job.

Hope this is helpful to some of you who are also out there searching.

Jim Rowland