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Tag Archives: Job Search

How Pushy Should My Thank-You Note Be?

11 Oct

A reader writes:

I interviewed for a job with a company I used to work for. I know many people still at the company & am friends with the VP who interviewed me. Yesterday she emailed saying I did not have the typical experience that they’re looking for and thus the higher-ups in corporate would not accept my candidacy.

 Question: Should I write her a letter/email explaining why I am better than some average candidate just because their resume has the traditional boxes checked off? Or does that seem desperate somehow?

 

In typical HR fashion, I’m going to say “it depends.”

On one hand, it’s natural and expected to follow up an interview with a concise pitch for why you’re interested in, and perfect for, the job. That said, you’ve already received feedback that you won’t be seriously considered for the role. Whether you should continue to make a play for the job depends largely on your relationship with the VP who interviewed you. If you think she’s a fan of yours and might go to bat for you given the right information and tools then you should definitely give it a shot. Maybe she just needs to see the indisputable facts and arguments for why you’re the perfect fit for the job – all spelled out before her. If you think this is the case, do it. Write that note and make your case.

If, on the other hand, the VP isn’t likely to make the case for you with the rest of the management team, it’s a different story. If she either isn’t necessarily a huge fan and won’t stick her neck out for you, or if she just doesn’t have the sway or decision making power to influence the original assessment of your candidacy, then it’s probably a waste of time to try to re-sell yourself after being initially rejected for the role. If this is the case, a well-crafted thank you note would be a better option. One that lets her know how you appreciate being considered initially even if you are an “out of the box” candidate, and expressing an interest in exploring other appropriate jobs with the company. 

If she’s a fan of yours, it can’t hurt to make one more effort to see if she’ll stick up for you with the bigwigs. If you don’t think she can or will affect any kind of change of opinion when it comes to you, it can come off as a bit out of line, if not desperate.  So I can’t tell you what to do with this one, but if your relationship with this VP is one that you want to continue to nurture then let that be your guide on what to do. Put yourself in her shoes and figure out what you’d want if your situations were reversed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Would you try to re-sell yourself or would you write it off as a done deal? Please leave comments below.

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The Player-Coach Phenomenon

11 Sep

When reading job descriptions, I’m sure you’ve come across the term “player-coach” more than once. It’s a designation that employers use for positions that have management authority but are also expected to get their hands dirty on some day-to-day work. Seems reasonable, right? Especially when you’re talking about the junior-management levels where employees are in a team lead role, mentoring and managing others, but still doing the job themselves.

One thing that I find interesting about the term “player-coach” is that although it’s obviously based in sports it’s not something that I’ve EVER seen on an actual sports team. In sports, you’re either a player or a coach. Going back to my earliest sports memories – from toddler soccer leagues to little league baseball to high school football – we had players and we had coaches. But we never had a player-coach.

Businesses, however, have adopted a very different mentality. They have fully embraced the idea of a manager who isn’t too managerial to roll up his/her sleeves, and a front-line worker who is capable of thinking strategically. Two birds with one stone! Or more specifically, two jobs with one salary.

This hybrid role can be a great opportunity for employees and employers alike, but it’s not without its challenges. In its best format, it’s a way for star individual contributors to move into management without completely being removed from their comfort zones. It gives them a chance to lead by example, to grow into role models, and to develop their management style all while still getting to work in the area of their greatest strength. At the same time, the employer gets to bring a superstar into management ranks and mold him/her in the company’s image, while not overpaying for a more experienced manager if that’s not what they need. In this situation it’s a great arrangement for both the employee and the company, but lately I’m seeing more and more examples where the player-coach position is not being used quite as effectively.

As companies are bouncing back from recent recession woes, they are starting to hire and organize staff with the intention of doing more with less. Especially in small and mid-sized companies, executive level positions are being asked to pitch in at the line level, and junior and mid-level managers are being given increasing responsibility and autonomy – regardless of whether they’re ready for it. This can present problems for both parties – companies are having a harder time finding the right talent, and employees are having a harder time succeeding in these roles. It’s very tempting for employers to hire too senior or too junior for the role they need to fill, and both have serious risks. Going too senior, you risk making a hire that is not going to remain engaged and effective in the line-level work and will either leave for greener pastures or under-perform. If you hire too junior you run the risk of giving your new hire decision making authority and autonomy that s/he’s not ready for, which can lead to poor strategic decisions and a loss of morale – both of which can have serious negative effects on the overall organization.

So what’s a company to do? First and foremost, be honest and upfront. If you’re hiring for a player-coach role, emphasize and stress the nature of the role to your candidates. If someone seems too senior or managerial, dig deeply in your interviews to find out if they really are. Then go with your gut. Even though a candidate might seem perfect “if only there was less execution involved” then don’t make the hire. These roles should be a stretch for the person you’re hiring, but an achievable one. In today’s job market, lots of candidates are making compromises to find a solid job with a solid company. But these same employees will jump ship at the first opportunity for more of a “real” management job.

And if you’re a job seeker, how do you navigate this territory? First, be honest with yourself. If a job seems like a step down, or feels too junior for you, don’t take it just because it’s a job. There will be more. And wouldn’t you rather wait for the next one than spend the rest of your career explaining your bad choice? Conversely, if you’re more of a player than a coach, be realistic about how much of a stretch is appropriate for you. Never managed a budget before? Then that multi-million dollar one in the job description might not be for you.

For recruiters, hiring managers, and job seekers – ask questions. In the interview; after the interview; throughout the entire process. Make sure that you know what you’re getting into, and that it’s the right thing for you. Too many bad hires are made because of wishful thinking instead of thorough investigation.

The role of the player-coach might be right for you, but “might be” isn’t enough. Know for sure before making a decision you might regret.

Changing Careers – Where Do I Start?

6 Aug

A reader writes:

Hello Dave,
Since graduating college four years ago, I have worked as an aide for a state legislator. My duties primarily include casework, reviewing bills, letter/press release writing, and general administrative work. As time goes on, I am increasingly learning the public sector is not where I want to be. For the past year, I have been looking to change careers. I have been applying for analyst and human resource positions within various industries, primarily in finance and media, because I find those fields interesting.

My question is – how do I get my foot in the door with an industry I do not have any direct experience in? I feel my skill set qualifies me for many of these entry or second level positions, but am not getting the response I’m hoping for. How do I get HR people to notice me?

Thanks for reaching out. Your question is a tough one, and one that people in a variety of fields are struggling with. Unfortunately there’s no easy answer – the kind of career shift that you’re looking for tends to rely on luck (being in the right place at the right time.) Fortunately, there are ways to create your own luck to give yourself the best shot at success.

  1. Make sure that you’re not just spraying your one resume format out to every junior-level HR job you see. That’s the kiss of death. Make sure that the jobs you’re applying for have some relation to your skills, and make sure that you’re highlighting those relations on the customized resume that you’re sending to each one.
  2. Network. I know that it can be a scary word, but when you break it down it’s really not that bad. Do some research on LinkedIn or individual company directories, and find a handful of people who are doing the jobs that you want to do in your area. Email them, explain your situation (just like you did with me) and ask them if they’d be up for a brief meeting so that you can get some more insight into their industry, background and career path. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee at a local place, or to meet with them at their place of business if that’s more convenient. These networking meetings accomplish two things – they give you access to information that could help you get the job you want, and they get you on the radar of the people who are doing what you want to do. If one of these people gets promoted or leaves a job, wouldn’t it be great if they said “hey – I know someone really smart and insightful who would be great for my replacement”?
  3. Explore temporary work. Register with some temp agencies in your area, and when you meet with the recruiter tell him/her what you’re looking for. They just might have some temp assignments for you in an entry level or admin role within an HR department. If they do, this is your big chance to make a great impression. When on a temp assignment, take the time to get to know the people around you a little bit. Always try to go above and beyond, and make sure that you’re not shy about expressing your interest in the field. I owe my career to a temp assignment that I had when I was ready to transition out of acting and into the corporate world, so I can say with absolute certainly that this can be a successful means to an end.

Are any of these guaranteed to get you where you want to be? Of course not. But there are no guarantees in life, so these are as good are you’re going to get (at least from me.) I’ve always been a firm believer in two things: roll with the punches and create your own luck. If you’re smart, diligent, and if you’re the kind of person that others genuinely want to work with, the opportunities will come in time. Just make sure that you’re stacking the deck in your favor.

Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on this site? Send an email to HR.Dave1@gmail.com.

Questions or comments about this topic? Please leave them below – it’s a conversation, not a lecture.

Because a Gazillion Facebook Users Can’t Be Wrong

3 Jul

Hey folks! In the interest of creating a forum that’s more conducive to conversation, I’ve decided to join the magical world of Facebook with the official HR Dave page. It’s there for asking questions, sharing insight, and generally having a real dialogue about job search and careers. Check out the page at http://www.facebook.com/hrdave1. I hope you’ll join us there. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Getting Social – Really Social – in your Job Search

5 Jun


I recently had the honor of speaking on a panel for graduates of Oxford University’s Said School of Business alongside two amazing co-panelists, Lindsey Pollak and James Alexander. The topic was “Social Media in the Job Search.” There was a ton of great conversation and insight, both from the panel and from the audience. One question that sparked a particularly engaging chat was this:

“How does Social Media fit into an overall job search strategy? How do you balance online and offline efforts?”

I love this question, and frankly I think it’s one that not enough people are talking about right now. There’s more information than you can shake a dead goat at about how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging and every other online social tool to help yourself get a great job. But it’s starting to overshadow one basic premise that still holds true. Social Media isn’t going to get you a job. It could potentially help you make a connection that could get you an interview that could lead to a job. But once that connection is made, you’re not using social media anymore. At some point you have to unplug and be, you know, a person.

The fact is that once you land a job, you’re going to have to actually show up, talk to people face-to-face, and generally function in the physical world. The ability to do this, and to do it in a way that gels with your potential employer’s culture, is going to be of paramount importance in the decision of whether or not to hire you. In interviews, how you say things is as important as – and in some cases more important than – what you say. You may be brilliant when locked in a room by yourself, but if you can’t effectively communicate ideas, offer and accept feedback, and generally function in a social environment (as opposed to a “social” one), you’re dead in the water.

So what can you, the social media whiz and guru of all things digital, do to prepare for this cold, real world? The answer is simpler than you might think.

Mix it up a little.

The internet has made it almost ridiculously easy to identify, weigh, and pursue potential job opportunities. You can make your list of dream companies, follow companies, recruiters, and hiring managers on Twitter, LinkedIn and wherever else they’re hanging out, apply online (often directly with your LinkedIn or Facebook profile) and generally manage your search. The fact that it’s so easy has made a lot of people feel like experts, but the ease of online job search has also created a lot of “noise.” Recruiters are inundated with friend requests and messages through a variety of online tools, so no matter your mastery of the medium you’re not standing out from the crowd. If you really want to do something different, go old school. Pick up the phone. Go to an event. Talk to someone in real time.

If just broke out in a cold sweat reading that, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The thought of putting yourself out there in an actual, real-life situation is scarier for most people than the thought of typing your way to a great “personal brand.” But it shouldn’t be. Even though it can take a while to get comfortable just cold-calling a recruiter or introducing yourself at an industry function, let alone giving your “elevator pitch,” you should always remember the upside. Any potential mistakes you make off-line are not searchable. They’ll be just between you and whoever you’re talking to. And there’s something to be said for that. Besides, you probably did better than you think you did. And you definitely made more of an impression than the 10 LinkedIn messages that your competition sent while you were talking.

So don’t abandon all of your social/online strategy – I’m not saying that at all. There’s still a ton of value to be derived there. But take a break now and then and really engage. Call that contact on the phone to ask for an informational interview. Show up at a Meetup or other event taking place in your industry and area. In general, just start talking. Trust me – the more you do it, the easier it will get.

And by the time you find yourself in that interview, when it really matters, you’ll be ready to talk yourself right into that job.

 

Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on this site? Send an email to HR.Dave1@gmail.com.

Questions or comments about this topic? Please leave them below – it’s a conversation, not a lecture.

Poll: Social Media in Your Job Search – What’s Working for You?

6 Feb

Is it just me or does it seem like every day there’s a new social media tool coming out, or a new application of an existing social network, that promises to help you get a job? Across the web (and across the real life population as well, I assume) there are people touting the superiority of Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and every other option when it comes to helping you find a job. I have my own biases as to what’s been successful for me, both as a job seeker and as a recruiter, but I’m asking to hear your opinions. Let me know what’s worked for you, and please don’t be shy about commenting.

I’d love to hear where you’ve been spending your social job searching time, and how the various available avenues are paying off. Thanks for voting!

Your Personal Brand is Not Going to Get You a Job

31 Jan

I’m about to make a statement that’s going to ruffle some feathers. It’s not a great revelation; in fact it’s a statement that 10 years ago was a given. But times have changed, the information highway has taken over, and people are hungry for anything that appears to offer sound-bite answers to life’s toughest questions.

There is no such thing as a “personal brand.” That’s right, folks – you heard it here. I’m mounting a one-man campaign to take this term out of the vernacular. Will I be successful? Not on your life. But does that make me wrong? You be the judge.

There’s a debate raging in our Nation’s capital about whether business can be considered people. While this isn’t a political blog by any stretch, I don’t see how that’s even a debate. A business is not a person. And along the same line of thinking, a person is not a brand.

So what exactly is personal branding supposed to be? It’s how you present yourself in real life and online. Some of the basic criteria for what’s considered a “good” personal brand:

  • Real Life:
    • Well dressed
    • Groomed
    • Firm handshake
    • Well spoken
    • Not stinky
  • Online
    • Considerate
    • Giving
    • Engaging/Engaged
    • Intelligent
    • Relevant

Is it just me, or are these attributes nothing but basic protocol for being professional and successful? Depends on who you ask, apparently.

Taking the things we already know to do and wrapping an easy-to-digest-yet-slightly-intimidating term around them is, well, is just good business. If your personal reputation and activities now constitute a “brand” then isn’t it a no-brainer that you need a qualified professional to manage that brand, or at least to tell you how to manage it yourself? The boom of personal branding experts and coaches is a testament to that. It’s capitalism at its best, folks. Create a need; fill the need. What I’m saying is that just because the need has a name doesn’t mean that it’s anything different from what people have been doing since the beginning of time.

Should you be all of these things that make up your “brand?” Of course you should, but to think of it as branding is to already be disingenuous. If you’re branding, you’re not being you. If you’re putting up a false front in the interest of being a better brand, you’ve already lost.  Again, there’s nothing new in this branding concept except a ton of confusion and overwhelmed job seekers. Instead of thinking of your personal brand, think of not being an asshole. That tends to pay dividends.

So if your brand isn’t going to get you hired, what will? The same think that always has and always will. The right qualifications, the right cultural fit, and a bit of luck. Out of these three, you can control all of them. So do what you can to be in the right place at the right time. Apply to the jobs that you’re actually right for. Do your homework on the companies to see which ones you think are the best match for your values and personality. Ask your friends and acquaintances for favors that can help you to get in front of the right people, and offer assistance and favors without being asked.

Because which would you rather have people saying about you (this is the multiple choice part)?

“Marge is really great. Talented, driven, down to earth, giving, and not bad to look at.”

or

“Marge has a really great personal brand.”

I know which one I’d choose.

Do you think personal brands are for the birds? Do you think they’re awesome? Have no idea what I’m talking about? Leave a question or comment below or email me at hr.dave1@gmail.com and we’ll see if we can get it sorted out.

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