Friday, June 29, 2012

Potential bloggers: step away from the keyboard

I don't think I have had enough coffee, so I'm feeling particularly ranty today about blogging.  I truly enjoy blogging.  You wouldn't know it because my blog entries are so freaking feast or famine. I could go on and on about the things I should do, but I'm not gonna.  I write this blog for me and me alone to share the thoughts that are screaming in my head-typically when I see people make the same mistakes over and over.   I try to write the same way that I talk which is often the same way that I coach/recruit aiming for WYSIWYG but with a little less shitty language.  But then I read something by The Bloggess or anything from FOT and I think-I am so lame.  I can be awesome like them too.  So, I sit down to create another better blog beyond this one with the best of intentions..and then I stop and I really have anything to talk about?

Let's face it...I've done extensive research (actually, I just thought about it while I waited for my 1:00 appt to pick up the phone) and I have determined that 99% of all blogs will never improve the planet.  Sure, the fact that these people record their thoughts in web logs (hello-blogs?) instead of note pads helps save trees.  We bloggers are saving the world one less crappy book at a time.  But...beyond that, a blog is pretty much just a one sided conversation.  Unless of course you are one of those bloggers that by grace, traffic or bribes manages to get a readership that actually engages and communicates about your rantings.  It is possible to be that blogger but regardless of what your parents told you, not all of us get to be special.  So please...don't be me and get all blog crazy.  Before you decide to enter into a love/hate/love relationship with a blog (especially for those of you who want to use it in job search), ask I really have anything to talk about?

If you do, consider doing your research before getting started from some experts:

How to start a blog that matters  Let's not be naive-there is some selling going on here, but he also has some good suggestions

Lots of miscellaneous advice from Problogger. They too want to sell you stuff, but again...some good ideas

Nice post on why Social Media isn't going to kill more traditional blogging by the co-founder of Blogher.

For my own two cents, I'll encourage you (specifically you job seekers) to stay within your field of expertise, brand your entries about your skills (and not your job search) and think about who you are writing to.  Don't talk above or below us-just at us.  And don't bother if you aren't going to update your blog once or twice a week.  I'll call this the do as I say and not as I do principle.

Ok, that's it.  Good luck and happy blogging.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is my LinkedIn profile pic that important?

Or as I like to call it...did I really just waste an afternoon jacking with my LI profile pic?

Yes-it is that important.  For years now, I have been talking about the duality of LI: both as computer database and as electronic rolodex (if you don't know what a rolodex is, ask your parents).  Well, the database doesn't care what you look like.  It only cares that you have put in a ton of relevant keywords and have a high degree of connectivity...which we will talk more about at a later time.  But, the rolodex aspect of LI is used by humans.  Real live humans who don't always remember what you look like.  Here is where a picture can help jog a memory.  It can also help you be found at an offline networking event.  It can even be the catalyst (because yes, humans are just that shallow at times) to make someone contact you. 

Whew...who knew the pic was that important, right?

Well, picking the right picture doesn't have to be rocket science.  You want a picture that is recent (mea culpa-mine had gotten too old), not too formal and shows you at your warm best.  Now, if your normal persona is Ice Queen/King, then by all means, get your grump on.  But if you are just an Average Joe like the rest of us, chances are, you actually smile at work.  So, don't worry about attire (well, worry enough to put some on), make sure that you don't look like you were on a bender for the last 4 days, have a supportive friend take some pics and just smile!  And if it makes you feel better, even know-it-alls like me have a hard time picking a picture.  Here the pic that our 4 year old thought was more appropriate than the ones I selected.  Everybody has an opinion....

Good luck and happy hunting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Job seekers: I find your lack of networking disturbing

Within the last 24 hours, I have received both a LI invite as well as a follow up message from the same stranger.  I accidentally accepted her LI invite even though she indicated we were friends (more for my pet peeve on LI invites here) and then I received a message from her shortly after that went as follows:

Hi Michelle,
I am going to be relocating to the area in about 2 weeks, do you know of any positions that are available that I might qualify for?

Thank You

And that's it.  No signature, no email address, no phone number, no offer to help me in some way, no real call to action on my part.  I looked at her LI profile (which was fairly basic) and realized that I know no one in her industry in my area or any others.  As a result, I responded back indicating as such and that was that.  She may be a perfectly nice person but her outreach didn't exactly invite me to find out.

So, why am I blogging about it?  Well, this is one of those areas that I think a lot of job seekers fall down: networking.  Networking is not about asking closed ended questions where it's only about you as the job seeker.  Networking is about identifying professionals that you want to talk with, developing the relationship and ultimately fostering the networking agenda on both sides of the equation right from the beginning. 

Sounds easy, right?  Well, it really is.  When you meet someone at church, your kid's soccer game or at a party, you don't go up to them and start asking them for favors, do you?  Of course not, you make jokes, you talk about what you have in common, you ask them questions about their lives, other words, you act like a human being who is interested in more than just you.  Now, I know that's hard to think about both when you are in a painful job search and through the impersonal medium of the internet...but if you want to be successful in networking (and dang it-in today's market, you simply must be), you have to stop thinking of networking as a "get get" model and more of a "give get" model.  If we apply that model here, what might her email have looked like?  Well maybe like this:

Hi Michelle,

I'm moving to your area within the next few weeks and I'm trying to research some potential job opportunities in the market.  I'm a insert job title here who most recently was in the LA market.  I was looking at professionals on LinkedIn that I thought might have a handle on what is happening in the area and I came across your profile.  I am sure you get requests like this all the time, but I would really appreciate a couple of minutes of your time via phone or email so that I can ask you a few questions.  Basically, I'm trying to ask professionals who they would be talking to if they were in my shoes.  If you think you are open to that, I could call you on Tuesday at 9:00 AM CST.  If that isn't convenient, could I email a few questions to you?

And of course, if you think there is something that I could help you with, I am open to it! 

Thank you in advance,
Phone Number
Email Address

What I like about this type of approach is that it's clear and straightforward.  You aren't pretending to be someone's BFF-you are open about why you are reaching out.  However, notice the difference.  I'm asking to open the door to communication and a potential professional relationship...once I do that, if this person knows of a job that is right for me, then I'll hear about it without having to overtly ask.  But if my initial outreach is just about me without any indication that I give a damn about the human on the other end of the equation, then there is a fairly good chance that my request will be ignored....or that it will be ignored and blogged about.

So, to sum up.  Stop approaching networking like it's an ATM machine.  Remember that networking, even if it only takes place online can be a rich resource for both people in the equation.  Change your approach and you will probably change your results.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Job seekers: Recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people

As someone with both a job search coaching practice and a recruiting practice, I get a lot of emails in the course of a month from people asking me for help.  What continually astounds me (but really shouldn't) is that I typically have to pull information from these people around exactly what kind of help they want.  Are they looking for a recruiter?  Are they looking for a job search coach?  Do they want someone who can tell them where to get handbags on the cheap?  What on earth are you trying to ask me?  This is really the information that they should offer the first time around without me needing to ask the question of "What exactly do you want from me?."  In addition, I hear from so many job seekers about how they never hear back from recruiters....and how unprofessional recruiters are...and how frustrating it is..etc.  And let's be fair-there are plenty of unprofessional recruiters out there.  However, as a job seeker, you need to ask yourself: Could I be the problem?  When it comes to communication and expectations, there is a chance that the correct answer is yes.

So, why am I hanging it on the job seeker?  Well, I think for me the biggest problem is around expectations.  Too many job seekers expect recruiters to be career advisors.  While many recruiters can and will offer you career management advice, it's really not their job.  It is the role of a recruiter to match the best candidate for the job they are tasked to fill.  To put it another way, recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people.  That's so important, let's say it again: a recruiter finds you for a job, not a job for you.  Now, we can pretty it up any way we want, but the reality is that recruiting has become a transactional industry.  If you want a recruiter to factor you specifically into their transaction, you need to be prepared to communicate why you specifically matter

Which brings me to my next gripe suggestion: In email/voicemail/conversation #1, you need to be the leader in communicating exactly what you do, who you want to do it for, and what ballpark amount of money you want to be paid while doing it.  Do not make the recruiter go on a fishing expedition.  There are too many candidates out there to expect a recruiter to jump through damn hoops to get basic information.  I promise-you make it too hard, that recruiter will give up long before you do-sometimes by the first exchange.  By being clear on your expectations, it signals to the recruiter that you know yourself.  What it does not do is tell the recruiter that you will only consider one type of role.  Rather, it clarifies for both of you what you are best at.  After having clearly communicated both your value proposition AND why you think that recruiter can help you, then you can always add in "You know, I am open to other opportunities if you see a place in the market where my skills and abilities would fit." 

So, before I get lost on another tangent, let me recap:

1) Recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people
2) When reaching out to a recruiter (or even being contacted by the recruiter first) be prepared to clearly communicate what you do, who you want to do it for and the ballpark range of what you want to be paid while doing it.
3) And there are always disclaimers/exceptions...many of these rules don't apply to C-Level professionals.  But most of us aren't C-Level, so the rules do apply.  But, regardless of your place in the job seeker food chain, you can still do everything right and ultimately find that the recruiters act like turds just like we (the recruiters) can do everything right and still find that you act like turds...but that's just human nature.  So, focus on what you can control in terms of communication and expectation and don't get stuck on the rest.

Good luck and happy hunting.