Job Seekers: Can You Adapt

Adaptability

The ability to adapt and respond is a critical skill for both the individual and businesses. As we have seen over the past two to three years; change is coming at an incredible speed. Our ability to adapt and respond is a critical skill for our own personal survival as well as the survival of the organizations where we work.

Everyone must assess their ability to adapt and respond. Joshua Cooper Ramos in his book The Age of the Unthinkable compares businesses and individuals to a plastic ruler. How far can the ruler bend before it snaps? Likewise, how far can you or your organization bend before snapping?

Unthinkable Change

Not only is change coming at an incredible pace, the change truly is UNTHINKABLE! We may not like it, but we always know that change is a significant part of our environment. The piece that makes this period different is the type of change and the extreme nature of the change.

While it is true that jobs and even careers come and go; it has previously never happened this rapidly. We have more unemployed than ever before in the history of our Country. Yes, the percentage may be less, but the sheer number is greater.

We are in an UNTHINKABLE period and therefore we must think even harder to survive!

How To Adapt

People must adapt to the changes if they are to recover from the turmoil that has been created. How is that done? What must people do to start putting their lives back in order?

  • Stop looking to others to solve your problems.
  • Assess your skills and abilities and write them down.
  • Record the goals that you have accomplished over your career and with each work situation.
  • Examine job postings relative to your skills and abilities assessment.
  • Recognize when the things that you thought were true have changed.

Do you have the flexibility to adapt or are you so set in your ways that you will snap? If you are the latter, then you must make the changes that will provide you the flexibility you need so you can adapt to a world that is going to change regardless; so you have no choice but to be a part of the change. We are accountable to ourselves for our actions!

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Using LinkedIn to Have the Job Find You

Using LinkedIn in Your Job Search

The first question that you must answer is: are you trying to find a job or are you trying to be found? Put another way are you pursuing an opportunity or do you want the opportunity pursuing you.

There is a huge difference in the success you will achieve if others are pursuing you. If you are being pursued it means that you have created a brand, that people know you by what you have done and are capable of doing. You are recognized for the value that you offer. Is this important? Absolutely, you want to be in the driver’s seat!

So You Want To Be Found

Obviously you are in a much stronger bargaining position if the employer has done the search and is now pursuing you. To me, this is the situation I prefer.

Wanting to be found, however, requires that you have the right mindset. You must not only feel that you are worthy of being sought after, but you must believe that you deserve to be sought after. You must also have the experience to back it up.

To be the object of the search a person must have a very strong profile. You must understand the skills and abilities that you possess. These aren’t the ones that you think you possess, but the ones that others believe you possess.

Descriptors Others Attribute to You

Developing this list requires you contact former co-workers, managers, customers, subordinates, vendors, and others with whom you have interacted and ask them for an honest assessment of your skills and abilities. Ideally they will include examples of situations where you displayed the skills and abilities that they identify. Assemble the list and look for the recurring theme in the lists. Obviously the more lists that you have the better picture you can develop.

Next research advertised jobs based upon the skills and abilities that you have compiled from the above exercise. Find out what job titles are associated and what additional skills are desired. Check your lists and see how the assessments you received can compliment these additional desired skills.

Use the Google SEO tool to find out the frequency the skills on your list are used as search criteria and factor that into your choices.

Develop Your List of Keywords

Once you have completed these tasks build your profile to include these keywords. Seed these words, as appropriate, in your prior work experience, your professional headline, your summary, and your interests. Ask the people that provided you with your skills inventory to write recommendations that include these words as well.

To get the best attention, not necessarily the most attention, you want to be very focused in your process. Employers like to know what they are getting and where they will be able to use your talents. There is nothing more frustrating to an employer than to have someone say “I will do anything”; most businesses do not have “anything” jobs.

If you are pursuing the job and doing the looking you still want to have a detailed understanding of what skills and abilities people attribute to you. Build your profile around those skills and abilities. Again do the Google search to see which skills or abilities were desired by the most prospective employers.

Your resume must showcase these same talents; consistency is important. Do not make your resume a duplicate of your profile; instead your profile is your opportunity to expand on the resume and tell more details of your story. It is critical that resumes and on-line profiles tell your story. People like reading stories; they don’t want to simply have a bunch of facts shoved at them. Ideally they want the story that bears out the facts.

Use LinkedIn to search for the key skills and abilities that you possess to see who and what job titles were unearthed. Continue doing searches on the key skills and abilities, but also do searches on the job titles that you uncover.

Study the profiles of the individuals that you find with positions that had appeal to you and assess those profiles compared to yours to see how you could improve.

We are never perfect; we can always improve; but we don’t want that improvement process to cloud our true objective of getting a job.

Job Search – Keeping a Low Profile While You Actively Search

You Are Employed; but You Know You Can Do Better

Social Media and Networking can be a great way to search for a new job or career; but there are definitely drawbacks when you are currently employed. It is a fact, there are many, many people that have taken positions below their skill levels, abilities, and interests during the current recession. The problem is how do they get back to where they were OR MORE?

You Are Connected and You Cannot Hide

The ubiquitous nature of the Internet knows you. You are no longer able to hide. You have an Internet presence and people can see what you are doing. If they are one of your contacts, connections, friends, followers, viewers, or whatever they have an even greater insight into your activities. Does this mean that you have no hope? Absolutely not; it just means that you must be more creative.

The Advantage of Being Employed

The truth is that being employed is an advantage during these lean employment times. Being employed means that you have survived the cuts, the layoffs, and the failed firms meaning that your value continues to be recognized and desired. This does not mean that those currently unemployed do not have value or are not desired. It just means that those that are employed have been more fortunate and right, wrong, or indifferent; it is an advantage.

It also means that coming from a position of employed to employed has an advantage over coming from unemployed to employed. Again, this is just a fact and not meant to demean anyone.

The second advantage to being employed is that you have the opportunity to create a situation where you are being sought, rather than you doing the seeking. The benefit is that it puts you in the driver’s seat for negotiations and gives you a better opportunity to say “no” when the opportunity is not to your liking. It is great when you are not desperate!

Keeping a Low Profile

How do you keep a low profile while carrying out an effective job search? The first way to keep a low profile is to avoid announcing that you are searching. Strange as that may sound, there are people that profess to want a low profile, but blatantly announce their intention to change jobs. This is not a wise tactic if you want to keep your job until you find the new opportunity.

I will use LinkedIn for the second example, but this would apply to any Social Networking site with similar capabilities. In your LinkedIn profile you have the ability to identify your reason for networking. Your answers should be networking, connecting, collaborating, answer questions, research, etc. None of your answers should have anything to do with looking for opportunities.

Next you must have a complete profile. You cannot expect success when your profile simply lists the places you have worked. What did you do there; what were your accomplishments? As Caesar said Veni, Vidi, Vici; I came, I saw, I conquered. What did you see, what action did you take, and what were the results of those actions? Let the reader know what you have done and what they can expect?

Your next focus should be getting the word out about your expertise. Join and participate in relevant groups. Ask and answer questions, offer advice and information, share your knowledge so people get to know you. Do not hide what you have to offer. Successful networking starts with you giving of yourself, your knowledge, and your expertise. Build your credibility and trust; so people will seek you out.

Join the answer boards and respond to posted questions. Give excellent, thoughtful answers; on LinkedIn people vote on your answers; work to get recognized for the quality of your answers. You are building your presence, reputation, and your brand. This must be a focus of yours.

Following these steps can help you create a presence without necessarily exposing your intentions. If you have not been very active on the Social Networks; make this a somewhat gradual process so you do not attract too much attention immediately. Let your presence grow so that you demonstrate reliability and consistency. You cannot jump out there one day with a flurry of activity and then disappear. You must create a consistent presence for the best success.

Job Seekers – To Pursue or Be Pursued

Some Job Seekers Pursue, While Other Job Seekers Are Pursued

There are many different ways to seek new opportunities but all of them will fall into one of two categories: to pursue or to be pursued. A job seeker that is pursuing is the person that is out beating the bushes looking for the next opportunity.

The pursuers are targeting employers, sending resumes, filling out applications, searching job boards, networking and making contacts, responding to want ads, etc. They are working to find that next opportunity.

The Pursued

The second category are the pursued. Those are people like Lee Iaccoca in the 1980s, when Chrysler was looking for someone to save the company. Iaccoca’s performance record with Ford made him not only a logical, but a great choice. Iaccoca was the father of the Mustang and that innovative mind was just what Chrysler needed; a person with talent and vision. Iaccoca was pursued by Chrysler.

This is what today’s job seeker should be looking to accomplish with their career.

  • What have you done in your past that you can do in your future to make people seek you?
  • How are you presenting your skills and abilities?

The pursued have a brand and a reputation that is known by some or even many. The more that know your brand the greater your appeal and the greater your opportunities.

Develop Your Brand

Success requires that you develop, build, and promote your brand. Do you have a brand? What is your brand? How can you promote your brand?

These are important questions that you must be able to answer and then act upon. What can you do to establish your expertise and gain the visibility necessary to promote your brand?

Developing your brand requires that you have visibility. In the past this was often difficult to accomplish. There were limited places where you could promote and there was tremendous competition to get your information placed. Today that has all changed.

With the advent of Social Networking. Blogs, and other Internet capabilities; you can get your word out. There are numerous outlets (magazines, ezines, blogs, websites, etc.) where you can gain tremendous visibility and credibility. These outlets suffer constantly from the lack of quality information and ideas. They are experiencing increasing competition for materials and therefore they are always looking for new material and differing perspectives. If you want to get the recognition; the possibilities are unlimited.

Are you pursuing or being pursued? Most job seekers fall into the category of pursuing; what can you do to change yourself from pursuing to being pursued?

Is Thinking Out of the Box the Correct Advice?

Maybe Thinking Out of the Box Is All Wrong

I just finished reading “The Age of the Unthinkable” by Joshua Ramo and it has made me reflect on this topic. It is a great book and I highly recommend it.

We hear frequently about the idea of thinking outside the box and I’ve come to realize that maybe outside the box is not the correct term. In the book Ramo uses the example of a picture. Many pictures have a foreground object and then the background. Since reading the book; I now look at the foreground object as my current job and the background as my skills that put me in that position.

Your Job May Be Obsolete, But That Does Not Mean That You Are Obsolete

When a current job disappears, I mean becomes obsolete; if we are focused on the foreground then we have become obsolete as well. But if we look at the background as our skills, abilities, and talents that put us into the job we will see that we have many things working in our favor to continue moving us forward.

Personal Experience

When I discuss issues pertaining to job searches; I speak from experience. I have had numerous occasions over the past fifteen years where I have had to search for a job. Sometimes it was because a contract ended, sometimes it just was not the right fit, and sometimes I was too honest and people did not like it. Whatever the reason I have experienced many of the same situations as you. I have walked into the office and been told that today was my last day on more than one occasion. No preparation, no advance notice, nothing, just you are done.

Here’s an example; I’m in IT and after 9/11 my projects which were all new infrastructures, just dried up. I had been working for a local firm for a couple of years and things were going well. 9/11 changed all that and their business just came to a standstill. I was a contractor and they had to cut costs immediately. I was expendable and quickly out of work. They told me to come back after the first of the year and see where things stood. They did not pick up and eventually the operation shut down. Although not permanently obsolete it was devastating enough to be a challenge.

I lamented and mourned and went through months of not moving forward. Finally I stepped back and looked at all the things I had done (the background of my picture) and realized that, although I was not an IT security expert, I had over 20 years of IT security experience. I had grown up with IT security from four letter passwords to what it was at the time.

Restructure Yourself Based Upon What Made You What You Were; Not For What You Were

I restructured my resume to focus on this experience and lo and behold I found a job. Everything I needed was in the box, I just had to get past the foreground picture to find it.

We do not need to go off the deep end, we just need to be willing to look beyond the obvious.

Are You Prone to Attitude Discrimination?

What is your attitude about your job search?

Are you excited and optomistic or hesitant and doubtful?

Job seekers often do not understand that they will typically wear their attitude on their sleeve. The interviewer can see it; it can even come through in your resume or cover letter. Job seekers that present themselves as excited and optomistic; will 9 times out of 10 win the job; and the time they do not win, probably it was not what they wanted in the first place.

So where are you in this spectrum?

When you have an attitude of hesitancy and doubt; you will sabotage your possibilities and your opportunities. The successful job seeker goes into every job search and interview expecting to be offered the position; once offered they can take time to evaluate the offer and whether it is right for them.

I have been there!

I know that this is true, because I have been a victim to my own self doubt and hesitancy and it has cost me opportunities. Granted some were opportunities where I was not excited and it showed and I honestly did not care one way or the other. Others were situations where I was excited about the opportunity, but I did not present well in all of the interviews.

Poor Attitudes Result in Rejection

The problem is that when you have this preconceived notion or attitude the recruiters and hiring managers can see it. They have seen it before and they are recognizing it again. If the job seeker has a negative attitude when they are in the interviewing process; what will it be like once they are on the job? Managers and recruiters do not want to run this risk; so they reject the candidate.

Why add a negative influence into the work environment?

Why would a company want to introduce what it appears to be a negative attitude into the workplace. The reality is that the company already has enough bad attitudes and they do not need one more. Is this discrimination on the part of the recruiters and hiring managers? Absolutely not; the best choice is to move on to the next candidate and hope for a better option.

There are other fish in the sea!

In today’s job market especially; there are many other job seekers and some will have greater potential. That being the case it is better for the recruiter, hiring manager, the organization, and probably for the individual as well; to move on and look for another candidate.

Examining attitudes

Here are some attitudes that will stand in the way of your being successful in your job search:

  1. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
  2. I have paid my dues; what more do you want from me?
  3. I have over 20 years experience; I know the answers!
  4. My experience speaks for itself; I’m not interested in jumping through your hoops.
  5. You don’t like older people; do you?
  6. Why do you want me to do it that way; I’ve been doing it like this for 20 years and never had any problems!
  7. I don’t like to learn new things.
  8. I have some great ideas on how you can do this better.
  9. My last boss was … (fill in the blank)
  10. How much time off do I get?
  11. How hard do you expect me to work?
  12. I will do anything you ask, but … (fill in another blank)
  13. Tell me about your benefit package

Obviously the list can continue ad infinitum and you are welcome to add your comments to this list.

In summary; your attitude will have a far greater impact on whether you get the job than will your grey hair and wrinkles. These are tough times for job seekers and to be successful you must move beyond the idea that your biggest problem is your age; because that is probably NOT your biggest problem. Be open to self evaluation and examine everything about you before jumping to the “age discrimination” conclusion.

Have a great career!

Age Discrimination Or Attitude Discrimination – Which is It?

I understand the issue of age discrimination; I have even considered and stated it to be an issue. I am also sure that there are occasions when age discrimination occurs.

Is it age or attitude discrimination?

After some of my recent conversations I have come to rethink that mindset and see it more likely as an attitude problem or an excuse for not getting a job; “they did not want me because I am too old.” The excuse works; it is acceptable; people do not question it – not only do they not question it; they will offer it for you!

What I see

What I see, in my role as a career and job counselor, is the fact that those that have proven themselves over a long career often want to and some even feel they deserve to – rest on their laurels. At the same time those doing the hiring have become accustomed to and come to expect and choose to avoid even a hint of that mentality. If there is any suspicion of the “coasting” mentality; the avoidance mechanism kicks in and the recruiter/hiring manager moves on.

I frequently hear comments from those in the over 50 group about 3, 5, or 7 years and then heading off for retirement. Those doing the hiring interpret that as someone that is looking to “serve out” their time and then move on to what they really want to do. The coasting mindset does not serve anyone; least of all the job seeker.

What business wants

Businesses want people that are hungry, want to contribute, and even have a desire to once more make a name for them. Whether that is or is not the typical mindset of the older person; many have decided that it is the mindset.

Another issue is that those doing the hiring see the older person as having a salary expectation that may be consistent with past performance, but question whether it will be consistent with future performance? The job seeker has this perception that, “the businesses do not want to pay me what I am worth.” Is that the case or is it that the business wants to give good value and be sure they will receive good value in return? Again, I believe it is the latter. Employees are an investment and like any investment there must be a positive return on that investment.

If there is any suspicion that future performance will not meet the expectations of need; it is off to another candidate. Hiring managers simply do not know what to expect and if there are any doubts will rule a candidate out. What those doing the hiring truly want to know is what can and will you do for them and is the benefit worth the cost?

What is your commitment?

How committed are you going to be; when you make a comment about something for the next 3 – 7 years? Does that sound like the commitment you would want? Would you hire that person? You must look at your comments, qualifications, and mindset from the business perspective.

The age 65 and out mentality

Part of the problem is the perceived retirement age of 65; this is a psychological barrier for the older employee and for the hiring manager as well. Just this last week I was listening to a sports commentator discussing Bobby Bowden at Florida State and whether it was time for him to step down; he is 80. Many people think it is time, but because of Bowden’s tenure; Florida State says it is up to him to determine the time and place.

It may be time for Bowden to go, but interestingly in a few areas the “65” factor does not apply: sports coaches and managers, politicians, physicians, clergy, speakers and motivational speakers, consultants, and some others. But without fail it applies to employees of a business. If you are over 50 there is that business perception and maybe it is a misperception, but perception none the less; that you will be retiring soon and simply want to coast.

The “Coasting” mentality

There are coasting jobs such as greeters at Wal-Mart or jobs at McDonalds. This is not meant as a negative for Wal-Mart and McDonalds; those are just not career positions and neither is the 3 – 7 years and out mindset. The Wal-Mart and McDonalds jobs for many simply present the opportunity to get out meeting, greeting, and doing something worthwhile.

What are you doing to improve?

What you must decide is whether you have the desire to contribute and are willing to demonstrate that to the person doing the hiring. If you are an older and especially if you are unemployed these are some ideas of what you could be doing:

      * Adding value to your offerings.
      * Reading relevant materials to your job.
      * Getting that additional education you need.
      * Presenting yourself as a contributor.
      * Identifying your chronological history of contributions.
      * Being active with charitable, non profit, church related, or other activities.
      * Learning new skills or technologies.
      * Teaching yourself new skills with computers or Microsoft applications.
      * Networking with current and past friends and coworkers.
      * Helping others through education and mentoring.

Do you need to reassess

It is time for the over 50 crowd to reassess how they are presenting themselves. Are you looking like a contributor; somebody that will add to the organization or do you present as someone just waiting to call it quits. If you are unsure or there is any doubt; it is time for you to reassess.