Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Linked In as a superb marketing tool

It would have been such a blessing during the pre-Internet days to have such an excellent tool for connecting to people. But just because it's good does not make it easy, nor does it protect us from being highly selective in making connections. 

Even behind the protective guise of the Internet, we still have to say "no" to people we don't know or wish we didn't, and we still have to keep it more professional than personal. What you can say on Facebook is not the the same. 

Linked In has a wide menu of options to get the word out that you know what you're talking about in your field and you're open to discussions with others of like mind. As a blog reader and writer, I like to read comments, mostly political, until they get mean or silly. But when you post a query or idea on LI, you'll usually  hear only from people who take you seriously and have an informed idea to pitch back to you. 

I'm no expert, but every day I learn more about Linked In and it keeps getting better.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hope and the 2009 job prospects

There is much fear, and justifiably so, of the coming wave of layoffs across America in the first and second quarters we are looking to now. I keep telling my candidates: stay open, be flexible, keep learning something new, something that stretches you, keep connecting to other people, even if you don't know why or how they might help you. See first how you might help them.

I was doing my Christmas reading today and came upon this quote form Henri J, M. Louwen's book: With Open Hands. It says what I want to say but way better:

I see hope as an attitude where everything stays open before me. Not that I don't think of my future in those moments, but I think of it in an entirely different way. Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now---that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they'll turn out, to keep on going, even when something doesn't work the first time, to have trust in whatever you're doing---that is living with hope.

I have been on the brink of failure so many times now, I can't count. Change itself is the death of the old and the birth of the new, but perhaps we wait too long on death and fail to see the birth. Or we fail to anticipate the coming birth. This anticipation is the cradle of hope, not the blind helpless state, but the energy that supplies the little individual to see opportunity and run with it, for the greater good.  That is living with hope.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Money and Ethics

I had a long and intimate discussion this morning with one of my career coaching clients. He had 27 years in the banking industry and moved up the line to middle management. His bank once had a culture that stuck close to the customer. But along came some kind of crunch and then a few years ago there was a merger, and the culture of the bigger fish financial business swallowed the bank's culture and everything changed (not overnight, but gradually, like the boiling frog).

Over a period of five to seven years the culture moved from customer-focused to bottom line focused, and guess what happened? The bank got into big trouble and is one of those involved in the current bailout. Heads are rolling and even the severance at this bank will disappear for everyone who leaves after December 31, 2008. Meanwhile the bonuses are still distributed. What's wrong with this picture? What's the ethical basis when good hard-working people with 20 plus years lose their six month severance, but other bottom line players get a 5MM bonus?

Until we as a nation get closer to the inherent value of work itself, until corporations follow those mission statements developed fifteen years ago and act like the words have meaning, until we wake up and look around to see how everything we do has repercussions, often in far off countries, we will continue to see the loss of our middle class and a rise in poverty, the likes of which most of us living have not seen. The inherent value of good work deserves to be rewarded. There are definitely jobs that have become obsolete, but there are also robbers (still) at the top who have mismanaged other people's money and swept away good middle income jobs in a game that fills the executive coffers and leaves many Americans struggling from paycheck to paycheck. The reckoning is coming and every one of us will feel the pain of this readjustment.  But it's less economic in its full picture and more about ethical, fair standards and the courage to reward work itself over leveraging paper to reflect money that was never there to begin with.


Since I last posted I went to a networking event on the phone and online. You can enroll yourself by going to www.blitztime.com, and it's free. You create a profile, much like you do in Linked In, but not that extensive (it's not necessary for this). You then go through the scheduled events list and sign up. There are at least thirty to fifty a month and they are geographically centered. This means you are networking with locals. My group was Boston Speed Networking. There were 39 people on the call and I spoke to 13.

This is how it works: there are ninety minutes scheduled. You dial in and bring up the website at the designated time. When the event begins, you are moved around randomly every five minutes. A clock ticks in the right corner of the screen allowing you to see how much you have to say (both of you). When the five minutes is up, you are automatically pulled away from that person and wait thirty seconds for the screen to change (you see that person's profile so you immediately get an idea who they are). You can exchange numbers or tips or ideas with anyone, even those with whom you have little in common. At the end of the ninety minutes, everyone's name you were matched against comes up and you can send an email. I sent seven and received close to the same amount, but not necessarily the same people. I have two follow-up appointments, one with a recruiter and the other with a writer.

Why is this good networking? You can do it from home. You are forced to connect to people. You cannot waste any time warming up: you are there for a purpose, and you quickly get to the point. You have an obligatory departure so you don't have to walk away and feel guilty. You can see the person if they posted a picture and you get all their information in front of you, not just a name tag with a company name. But the big prize is this: you have an immediate chance to follow up. You don't go home from the event and look at the business card and enter it into your address book and then wonder when you'll contact that person or why you wanted to in the first place.

This is  VERY GOOD business. Try it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Restructuring and the Little Individual

Senator Chris Dodd spoke Sunday about the need for strategic reorganization and restructuring, not only of the Big Three auto  behemoths in Detroit, but also for the ancillary organizations that supply and service the industry.

It got me thinking: that's what we need to do as individuals, especially those reinventing themselves for the job market when their current employment comes to a halt. Now more than ever we cannot be stuck with the old job titles and the business as usual set of skills. We need to upgrade our skills, get another set under our belts, learn the language of Web 2.0 and use the tools of better connecting to people and the opportunities they provide, if we only know how to ask.

One of my clients admitted today:" I thought I knew a lot about networking, but I'm finding out I didn't even know I already had a Linked In account. I just didn't know how to use it". I know people who swear by Linked In and get interviews with recruiters and hiring managers and I know others with 100 connections who let them sit there, without attention. 

Linked In is one avenue and there are others, but just staying with that one, there are books to read, blogs to follow, and chat rooms on how to make it work for you. Part of restructuring is rethinking how you connect to change and to opportunity. It all starts with people and with good advice. And it helps to think in new pradigms, including how to make new friends and keep the old.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Learn To Lead

Leadership is a skill many misunderstand. We come to think of it as something that people with outgoing, aggressive personalities do easily and well, and ultimately these blessed individuals will succeed as leaders throughout their lives. We believe that leaders are born, not made.

Not so. Leadership is available to anyone at any time. It can be developed and cultivated and leadership opportunities are all around us.

Leadership comes from patience, listening to others and using a dollop of courage when an action or the right word is clear to you. Leadership is innovative, collegial, cooperative, imaginative, trustworthy, inclusive, and raises the highest standards against itself. Leadership is humble but not fearful, confident but not arrogant, intelligent but not effete. 

Leadership is a quality to cultivate for the new economy, and on a daily basis. How? Every day do one thing that makes you uncomfortable (learn one more piece of Excel or change your gym routine and start lifting weights instead of zoning out on the treadmill). Pick up the phone and make that call you've been putting off. Leadership is courageous, lively action and it begets its own good energy. Others will follow because this energy is infectious.

And leadership is competitive in the job market. It has an aura, a certain attractive quality that complements your ordinary skill set. It's an intangible that might just make the critical difference in your next interview. And it will keep your good job around longer. When money is scarce and fear is in the air,  leadership is what pulls everyone through. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Speed Networking

One of my clients gave me a hot tip recently, so I went to try it out. He found it through Linkedin: it's called speed networking and you can get there from www.blitztime.com. You go in and register, view the networking telephone events in your geographic area, view the other people signed up (you create your profile first and you can say as much or as little as you want), and then enroll yourself --FREE--for a ninety minute slot on a specific date. 

You have five minutes to introduce yourself to the next randomly selected person and then you stop. The whole event is 90 minutes so you can meet eighteen people in your scheduled event. If you get a "hit" connection, all the better. My client met up with a recruiter in his field on the second five minutes he was there. They scheduled a formal phone interview right after that first quick meeting.

I signed up for December 16 in Boston.  I'll keep you posted, but meanwhile, check out the website and decide for yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Money and Motive

Why do we work? This morning I read a very good piece on on experiment about CEO pay and how it ties in to actual corporate performance. It doesn't: it's actually counter-productive to higher performance. This researcher went to India to conduct his first test. He offered money incentives for delivering results. The groups were divided into three and each was offered the same work for a different bonus. The high bonus offer was $50, equivalent to six months pay for an Indian middle level worker and the low bonus offer was 50 cents, an equivalent in India to a day's wage. The winners were all in the 50 cent group and the losers were the $50.

He took the experiment to a group of seniors at MIT and offered $60, $300, and $600, respectively. When it was purely mechanical performance the $600 group won, but at the cognitive level they failed. The $60 group won in that category. Then when they were asked to perform their work under public scrutiny, the $600 group failed. The private work of the $60 group made them the front-runners.

What does it say, other than the obvious, that CEO pay at a level 450 times the lowest employee of the firm should be punishable by death when the company fails? Perhaps this small experiment indicates we work for something more than money, that we strive to achieve less under pressure and more for the pure satisfaction of achievement as its own inherent reward. 

People need money and are definitely happier when rewarded with a fair wage, but exorbitant bonuses just put us to sleep, make us take our eyes off the ball and get just a little too comfortable. 

We are living in uncomfortable times in the wake of our ailing world economy. We mustn't recover too quickly, lest we lose the opportunity to know what it means to wake up and keep our eyes on the ball. It doesn't take a rich CEO to have a clear head and a cool moral fiber. We are all in this together now, so let's keep our eyes wide open! 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Time Well-Spent

One aspect of the new new economy that I've considered lately is how to spend my time and even how I might suggest others could do the same. With looming increases in layoffs (December is the highest month traditionally),  and now scary news threatening so many of us in many industry sectors and geographic regions, we have to think differently about the use of our time.

With a new administration coming in we have a resurgence of hope, but hope is hard to hold onto when fear and anxiety take over. How then to keep the twin monsters at bay? Paul Krugman and Thomas L. Friedman (both contributors to the New York Times) have exhorted us to spend, not in a foolish way, but as a way of keeping the flow of money going. Wal-Mart is the only retail company having an upturn (easy to understand). 

But my focus is on time. If we have anything to face now that could help, it is a renewed awareness, and perhaps a deliberate focus on how we use our time, how we spend it. I spend my time somewhat newly. For example, my awareness of the economic impact, as well as the ecological impact, of how I use and abuse energy has changed. I work from my home office mostly and I have lately turned the thermostat lower and put on layers even while at the peak of my productivity during the day. It is not yet winter, but the layers are going to increase. This has a double benefit: lower fuel costs (save money) and better ecology overall.

I call more friends on weekends and evenings. Boom times are over and my vision has opened: love is irreplaceable; money is not in the forefront. It's in the background, there as a threat as it always has been, but the work against fear demands a different outlook. Hope can be sustained over time when we reach out to others, even on a good day. Know hope and use time well as the precious gift that it is.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Pity Party

If you're actively seeking new work right now, remember be FLEXIBLE! Look at your most recent job and examine carefully what transferable skills you have. These include your soft skills: your ability to multi-task, to synthesize ideas, to coordinate divergent groups or individuals into moving the action, and into advancing the decision-making.

All of these skills are sought-after and much in demand. AND they transfer to almost any function and across all industries. If you are unemployed and it's getting you down (understandable), use this time, especially in this interregnum in Washington and in this holiday season, to introspect about your gifts, your soft skills. You have them; you maybe just haven't thought about them in awhile. And soft is hardly the right word. It's your people skills. people matter to people in the workforce. Why else can some people ask for a challenging task to be done and get others on board? If your people skills are weak, strengthen them. Use this time to develop a better you and avoid the pity party. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Be Prepared for December

The AP reports this morning that December is the biggest month (twofold statistically) for layoffs in American businesses. Executives and senior management scramble to deliver a profit for end of year and layoffs happen now. So, if you are in the mix of the bad news, and more of you will be this year because...need I remind you of what we're all talking about?

The reverse news (I won't say good yet) is that in the first quarter of 2009 there will also be other shifts going on, adjustments to how companies spend and hiring. No one can make much sense of it but some companies hire right after a layoff and it's not all cheaper labor. It's when they see what they need and have to fill that need.

It will be a leaner holiday season, without a doubt, but it's not the end of the world.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Learn Spanish

Want to open up numerous career opportunities? learn Spanish and get very good at speaking it. I have a counseling client ( a professional in HR) who is a native speaker (Mexican American) and he has an abundance of opportunities both as a professional in the Southern border to Mexico with mega-companies, and as an online teacher with various universities who run business courses with Spanish speaking customers in Mexico and Latin America. Now, you may not master this language as well as a native speaker, but you can get close if you work at it.

It's time to open up your education, not just in the hallowed halls, but in the small, practical ways we all have access to.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Manager of Freelancers

I just read a great idea for a new job in the new economy. This came form Seth Godin on his blog. Seth is a wonderful writer and an enlightened and courageous thinker. When I return to links, I'll get you there. Meanwhile Google Seth Godin and read his entry on the top three jobs to have right now. Yes, Community Organizer is up there at the top. Duh! I wonder where he got that one?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Should I be scared?

I talk to hundreds of people every month around the country who have varying dgress of success and failure in their job search. A few are lucky enough to be ready for retirement and didn't lose it all in the recent Wall Street meltdown. Others have a couple of months severance, live in a relatively prosperous parts of the country (Texas and North Carolina) and don't seem to be aware of the economic nightmare we're in right now.

But if you're aware and getting scared, don't. It doesn't help; it doesn't change anything. One thing for sure: change is on the way and change is never comfortable, at least until it shakes out it's flaws and comes to rest in full form, useful and practical and maybe even fun. 

But this won't happen without creative, open-minded, opportunistic people who keep themselves open to these changes and how they affect others and where the opportunities are to make a decent living. And that's where the big change will come. We must stop thinking about getting rich. It may be a long time before we know what it will look like. But a decent living, including savings (safe and conservative savings) is on the way if we keep ourselves open to it. We will probably learn to build smaller houses and build them closer to each other. We will learn how to save, even if it's small amounts at a time. We will learn how to take better care of our resources. Our environmental resources are limited and so our our everyday living resources. We will learn how to be more alive by living better lives, by looking ourselves in the mirror and finding ourselves able to be at peace with what's reflected back.