Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are You Minding The Gap?

For anyone that has visited London and taken a trip on the famed "Tube" subway system is familiar with the phrase "Mind The Gap." It is a warning to train passengers to be aware of the gap between the train door and the station platform. What are you doing today to mind your own employment. Are you standing on the train platform or actually going somewhere on the train?

In my work over the past 10 months with displaced and candidates in transition, I have asked the same question. What have you been doing while you have been unemployed to make you more desirable and marketable to potential employers and against your own competition?

In the past an employment gap was something to be embarrassed about or to avoid at all costs, if possible. In today's world, it has become more commonplace and a fact on thousands of resumes around the country. However, the way you represent yourself in the face of your employment gap is what will differentiate you from the rest of the marketplace.

I have asked dozens of candidates how they have they spent their time during their layoff. I wasn't surprised to hear many of their answers. More popular answers were: networking, indulging in hobbies, spending more time with family or even getting more sleep.

But what was I truly wanting to hear? I was looking for a conversation about how they spent their time to make themselves unique in their industry. In this recession its vital to propel and escalate yourself to the top of the mountain of candidates, and quickly, because current trends are leaning towards employment growth starting to open up.

How you can start today to significantly change the topic from “employment interruption” to a dynamic time where you enhanced your professional development and advanced your career. It works for everyone from entry level to senior executives and business leaders.

1. Volunteer. Find something relevant to both your business and your interests. For example, The United Way's Helping Hands Community Events. Volunteering helps you give back which puts you in a positive frame of mind and counter any negativity resulting from your job loss. It also provides you the opportunity to meet, greet and network with potential employers in a unique and creative way, which ultimately will differentiate yourself from competing candidates.

It also offers you a forum to highlight your own expertise. Volunteer to coach and mentor the next generation or fellow job seekers in your area of expertise only increases your management experience. Offer to mentor students, volunteer to provide business coaching to small and start-up organizations, offer to hold free round tables and discussions with fellow domain experts at your local Starbucks, get involved in fundraising and get involved in community outreach programs. You will be blown away at the good will and leads that open up by getting involved in your own backyard.

2. Professional Training and Development. Obtain additional certifications & degrees, attend workshops, source local community colleges and/or participate in online e-courses such as webinars and podcasts.

3. Create and Manage your Online Footprint. Make sure your social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are up to date and secure and your online reputation clean. Establish a blog in your area of expertise and participate in commenting on issues related to your field, which shows your continued visibility and presence in your area as a true expert and leader.

4. Competitive Intelligence Research. Applying critical thinking in these ways demonstrates your ability to approach research and competitive intelligence you have garnered during this time about your industry. Invest time in becoming an expert in the closely related fields, not only your industry. Will make you an even stronger candidate at this time than you were even before you were laid off.

5. Create Your Own Website to Present Your Resume. Go to free website template sites such as which will help you easily create a small website where you can list your resume and link to other sites relevant to your. For example, create a free 1 or 2 page website that houses your resume, a link to your blog and a link to your Linkedin and Facebook account. This shows you are tech savvy and understand how to professionally market yourself. It also helps potential employers when they Google you (and they will) to find all your pertinent professional information in one place.

Once you do land that job, these on-going efforts will serve as instant supports to help keep you focused and protect against being steps behind if you are once again laid off in the future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Come Back Tour or Out-Dated Rock Star

I recently attended a concert by the rock band Creed. It was their “comeback” tour and first time on stage together in close to 5 years in support of a new album appropriately titled "Full Circle". Now, late 1990's bands may not be your thing. But as I stood in the crowd that night and watched and listened to the show and took in the fan reaction, it made me think that an aging super star rock band embarking on a "comeback" tour is not unlike what many of people are currently experiencing as they are faced with re-inventing themselves in an effort to land a new job after a recent layoff or salary reduction as a result of the current recession.

I am sure in some way, Creed had to wonder if their music would still be relevant and if they have enough fans to fill up a concert hall. In order to re-introduce themselves to their fan base and to inform the market that they were back on tour, the promoters took a unique approach. Instead of simply putting out some advertising and announcing tickets will be sold on, they actually pre-sold a limited number of tickets at an incredibly reduced price at a preceding concert at the same venue. In conjunction with the normal channel of promotion and ticket sales, they took a much more targeted approach to personally reach out to concert goers already attending a show of a similar genre. This personal touch helped to quickly spread the word and alert fans to their upcoming reunion tour in real-time which allowed them to grab friends and buy tickets right there on the spot. The promoters were able, I am sure, to gauge how much and what type of further promotion was needed to fill out the venue after they reviewed the results of the person-to-person ticket sales.

The place was packed the day of the show (minus some stragglers that stayed away due to the threat of rain) and the energy inside the building was infectious. There was a collective interest in wondering whether the band would actually be as good they were in the past. Could they still deliver like they did 10 years earlier when they spawned six (6) Top 40 hits and a #1 album on Billboard? Everyone knew the reasons the band broke up 5 years earlier. The break-up was a result of the many personal difficulties of Scott Stapp, the band’s lead singer. Eventually Stapp went on to record a few solo albums and the 3 remaining band members formed another band. Although both parties reached some success, it was nothing like they experienced together as Creed.

The comeback concert, in my humble opinion, was a success. They played all their old hits. The music was performed almost flawlessly, the stage show was fantastic and the band members had a sense of re-connection and pure joy in playing together that was really evident even if you were watching from my vantage point – all the way up on the grassy hill of the outdoor stadium. Scott Stapp thanked the fans appropriately and proceeded to demonstrate why the band was so successful in the past. They rocked the house with heavy guitar rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics. By the end of the show when they debuted their upcoming new song "Overcome” I felt a very profound sense of the "Full Circle" that the band was delivering.

I also saw an immediate connection to the activities job seekers must consider and enact when trying to secure a new role in this challenging labor market. Candidates from entry level to senior executives are being forced to re-brand, re-position and re-deploy themselves in order to seek new viable opportunities. They must be very clear about their “comeback” and what it is they do best and how they deliver results that will get people’s attention. It’s not enough today to simply have a good resume and a large number of LinkedIn contacts. Each candidate must look at their “stage” and put together a “show” that will be memorable and unique and make people want more! (Which is exactly what Creed did when fans cheered them back on stage for 2 Encores).

Plan Your Comeback!

The “IT Factor” – there are literally thousands of aspiring bands and musicians. What makes the few rocket up to superstardom, resonate with fans and create music that is memorable and stand the test of time? It’s the “IT Factor!” Every rock star has a charismatic, confident and crystal clear way of conveying their talent in away allows fans to connect with. Everyone has their own charisma, expertise and ability to rise to the top.
So ask yourself…”Am I conveying my abilities, value, successes and return-on-investment to a potential employer in a way that they can connect with and jump at the opportunity to hire me?"

Are Fans Still Interested in Your Music? You have accomplished, learned, mentored, developed and experienced many skills in your career to date. Perhaps you have been out of the workforce for a period of time raising a family or re-tooling yourself towards a new function since you got laid off. This is not unlike Scott Stapp’s personal troubles with Creed, yet he came back better than before. Struggles, issues and obstacles cannot erase your talent or experience. Just look at Creed, they came back and hit the ground running after 5 years off the stage! Your value is ageless and timeless. You must present your value to an employer so they get excited to see you on the market rather than question your fit for the role.
So ask yourself….”Am I demonstrating the true value of my expertise? Is my message being clearly delivered?”

You Booked The Concert Hall, Can You Fill The Seats? Concert promoters book venues and then work to fill the arenas with fans. A job seeker must work the appropriate steps in order to inform the potential market they are available and ready to solve an employer’s problem by getting hired into a key role. Simply blasting your resume on every job board to applying to every open position will not get you any closer to ensuring you are targeting the right people and opportunities.
So Ask yourself……”Am I utilizing my LinkedIn network (you DO have a LinkedIn account right?) to the best possible advantage? Am I presenting my 15-second pitch to the right people in the right way about my expertise and value to an organization so they can help spread the word?”

How Many Encores Will You Receive? You have the star power, you create your own timeless music and you deliver it to the crowd and now you are ready to perform. You get invited in for an interview.
So ask yourself…….”Now that I am in front of the hiring team, are they connecting with me and sensing my passion and enthusiasm and ability to deliver? Will they invite me back?”

You are a Rock Star not a One-Hit Wonder – plan your comeback tour today!

(Stay Tuned for More Tips on "How" To Plan Your Comeback!)....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Landing an Internal Jobs - 6 hings To Stand Out From The Crowd To The Corporate Recruiter!

There is no questioning the tough climate we are living in at the moment in terms of the availability of new open jobs. The tide appears to be shifting, however, and many experts and top recruitment professionals are pointing to a slight increase in new openings over the next 1-3 months. We are living in a very candidate rich market, but one area that should not be overlooked for new opportunities is within your own organization. As companies continue to re-align their organizations as result of recent downsizing, mergers & acquisitions, financial belt-tightening and/or competitive pressures; internal openings are becoming more readily available.

In recent weeks, I have worked with a number of prospective candidates to provide career coaching, resume writing and interview preparation services. Many of these candidates are currently seeking new opportunities while many others are simply hoping to hold on to their exisiting roles or at least their current company. I have watched many internal candidates conduct their job search very differently (and not very well) when targeting an internal role versus an external role. Many candidates are doing more damage to their efforts than helping their case.

There are several things to remember when posting for a role within your existing organization. Perhaps one of the most important things is to make your internal corporate recruiter an advocate on your behalf, not an obstacle to overcome. Follow these guidelines below to avoid common pitfalls and to increase your probability of becoming the chosen internal hire.

Your Internal Recruiting Advocate

1. REMOVE ALL UNNECESSARY ACRONYMS FROM YOUR RESUME. Just because you may work for the same organization does not mean the the corporate recruiter fully understands or can communicate the meaning of those acronyms you use in your role every day to a potential hiring manager. The corporate recruiter is often responsible for recruiting for many functional areas within an organization and may not know the exact difference between a GSO (Global Sales Office) and an EST (Enterprise Sales Team), for example. So spell it out. Make sure your resume is clear and can easily articulate your background and qualifications as it matches up to this new role.

2. DON'T ASSUME YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY GET CONSIDERATION BECAUSE YOU CURRENTLY WORK FOR THE COMPANY. The corporate recruiter is tasked with presenting the most highly qualified candidate in the market for the role. It may be you, but there is also an abundance of top talent in the market today, so you will not necessarily have a leg-up simply because your current business card has the company's name on it. Shift your thinking to making yourself stand out above all the competition, not just internally. In fact, you may have to work just that much harder to prove your worth to a new division of your existing company than an external person has to the organization overall. Why? Because the external person is being evaluated and matched up to one specific set of qualifications for the new role. You will need to illustrate to the recruiter and all internal decision makers why it makes sense to transition you from your current role and function to this new job within the company. Some hiring managers and recruiters have a thought process that if you have the proper skill sets for this new role, why wouldn't you already be in the role? It may not be a logical conclusion, but can play a role in the selection process. Therefore, you must be prepared to address this perception.

3. CAPITALIZE ON YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE COMPANY'S CULTURE AND BUSINESS OBJECTIVES. You are already part of the organization. You attend monthly or quarterly meetings, you have a insider's view of the mission, value, goals and objectives of the organization. In your discussions with the corporate recruiter, be creative! Show them in a clear and concise way the successes and value you have brought to the organization in your existing role and how that aligns with the company's goals. For example, don't assume that just because you are part of a sales force that just successfully launched a new product, that you will be seen as a key factor in that success. Illustrate your personal contribution to the success of that sales effort through the use of documentation, internal references, a brag book, a Powerpoint presentation or any other form of data or accolade. Make sure the recruiter has the clear picture of brand "YOU". It makes it tangible and concise for the recruiter and they, in turn, will be able to present you to a hiring manager in a way that makes them a real advocate on your behalf, rather than just submitting another resume.

4. SELL YOURSELF TO THE CORPORATE RECRUITER. Do not be afraid to ask them to share their knowledge of what the hiring manager for the internal role is truly looking for. Ask them why the role is open in that other department. Create a relationship with the recruiter. If he/she can relate to you, they will be more likely to want to help you in the best way they can. They may be able to provide insights to corporate or departmental changes that will only be an asset to you during the interview process. Do not view the discussion with the recruiter as a necessary evil in the internal posting process. Use them as a resource to gather as much information as you can, and in return, apply that knowledge to become the best prepared and qualified candidate.

5. OFFER REFERRALS TO THE CORPORATE RECRUITER. Even if you are not selected for the internal role, offer your recruiter other referrals - both internal and external. The recruiter will, in all likelihood, have other open positions available in the very near term and your referrals will keep your name visible to the recruiter and top-of-mind to hiring managers. You have a unique perspective on the organization because you are on the inside track and will be able to recommend the best people. This will raise your internal profile and demonstrate your willingness to help the company achieve its overall hiring goals and not that you are simply looking out of number one. Even in a competitive world that we live in today, when you help others without asking for anything in return it will come back to you tenfold!

6. BE GRATEFUL! Its not enough to say you are grateful to have a job while so many others are on the street looking for their next role. Act grateful. Be grateful. Do what you can on a daily basis to continue to improve yourself personally and professionally. It will only make you that much more of a valuable asset - in your existing company or for a new employer.