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Tag Archives: networking

More Ways to Not Be an Idiot

7 Sep

I recently read an article by Jennifer King of Software Advice (which I am in no way affiliated with nor endorsing) entitled (in typical SEO optimized format) Job Seeker, Beware: 5 Ways You Could Damage your Reputation Online. The article isn’t breaking any new ground, as there are daily entries into the “don’t be an idiot” collection of articles and blog posts. But I’ve chosen to highlight this one because I think it clearly and concisely illustrates its point and, frankly, this stuff just can’t be overstated.

The five ways are:

  1. Polarizing Email Signatures – because not everyone wants to “have a blessed day” and not everyone finds your kissy-face emoticon as charming as you do.
  2. Fishy LinkedIn Recommendations – because we can tell when they’re made up, and not having them at all is better than having a load of crap.
  3. Friends, Followers and Connections That Don’t Line Up – because sometimes it’s about the company you keep. And if you’re not going to “network” on your social networks you’re probably better off not being there at all.
  4. Inconsistent and Out-of-Date Profile Info – because if your information isn’t consistent I’ll have to assume that you’re lying somewhere.
  5. Unflattering Posts on Others’ Sites – because not only should you not be an idiot, but you should also not be an asshole. These things have a tendency to follow you around.

To read the original article and to see these points illustrated with a bit more tact than I’ve illustrated here, check it out. It’s a nice read. And we can all use these reminders every once in a while.

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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.

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.

Your Elevator Pitch – It Doesn’t Have to Suck

1 Aug

For many of us, the words “elevator pitch” elicit a response of fear and stress, not unlike the words “mother-in-law” or “full body cavity search”. The reason for this often irrational fear is primarily that most people don’t know what an elevator pitch is supposed to be.

First, let’s try to dispel some of the myths around this beast. First, you don’t have to be in an elevator to use it. Second, the word pitch doesn’t quite do it justice. “Pitch” implies that you’re either selling something or playing baseball, and in reality you should be doing neither of these things while using your elevator pitch. If you’re selling something, you’re going about it all wrong. And if you’re playing baseball…if you can play baseball and network at the same time you’re either really good or really bad at both. In either case I probably can’t help you.

So what exactly is an elevator pitch? In a nutshell, it’s the long answer to the question “what do you do?” Named because it should take approximately the length of an elevator ride to deliver, it’s basically an introduction for you to use in order to garner interest in someone getting to know more about you. I’ve heard it said (and it may have been me that said it) that an elevator pitch is like a verbal cover letter. It’s also been said (and I know this one was me) that an elevator pitch is your professional pick-up line. And that’s how you should think of it. If you’re too cheesy or forward it will fail. The same thing will happen if your delivery is boring. Even if perfectly executed, your elevator pitch is not going to get you a job or close a deal, but it can give you the opportunity to speak at more length. It should be conversational, take less than 30 seconds to deliver, and give the recipient an idea of who you are, what you’re about, and why they should care. Now I realize that what I’ve given you so far probably isn’t relieving any anxiety about your pitch, so please allow me to break it down for you. There are three basic parts that every pitch should have. In life we have the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why). In elevator pitches we only have 3.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why should anyone care?

Each of these parts is equally vital to your overall pitch, and if you break your elevator pitch down into these three manageable sections I think you’ll find the prospect significantly less daunting.

The first part is easy – Who are you? Say your name, genius. The best pitch, without a name, will go over like a great commercial that doesn’t name the product. I know I want to buy something, but what?

The second part is the meat of your pitch – it’s the facts. What’s your job, your business, your product? It doesn’t have to be or sound sexy; it just has to be coherent and easy to understand. A couple of sentences is all you need. If your job title and company are important to your pitch, throw them in. if they’re secondary to a product you sell or a service you offer, focus on the product or the service. Remember, this is just enough to get someone interested – it doesn’t have to be a full autobiography.

The last part is the hardest part to put together and it’s the part that can make or break your pitch. Why should you be of any interest to whomever you’re talking to? Well duh, you may be thinking – have you MET me? Yes, clearly you are an extraordinary human being and we’d all be lucky to know you, but if you can’t put into words why anyone should care you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. This last part is your chance to get a bit personal and to make a lasting impression. When I say personal, I’m not talking about unveiling any deep, dark secrets – nobody wants to hear about your struggles with glue sniffing or your spot-on impression of the Queen Mother. I just mean that this is your chance to introduce yourself as a person and not just as a function. Having trouble thinking of why anyone should care? Start with why you care. If it’s meaningful to you, it might just make an impression on someone else. Why do you do what you do? What do you love about your job or your function?  These are the things to think about in your elevator pitch conclusion.

Hey! I just read this and I put together my elevator pitch! Want to hear it? Here it goes:

I’m HR Dave. I’m a Human Resources Director with a heavy focus on recruitment, employee relations and career coaching.  Currently I’m heading the Talent Acquisition team for a dot.com company in New York City. On the side I write a blog where I dole out job search advice and tough love because too many smart, talented people are making bad job-search decisions and I’m trying to counteract just a little bit of the bad advice that’s out there. Because if you think about it, the more educated and effective job seekers there are, the easier my job is as a recruiter.

OK – Your turn!

Once you’ve solidified your pitch, know that it is and will remain a work in progress. You want it to feel natural, like you’re just making it up on the spot. The minute it starts sounding like you’re reading it from a script, it’s time to change it up. The rule of thumb is that if you’re bored saying it, they’re bored hearing it. So keep it fresh, keep experimenting with new ways to improve or change your pitch, and most importantly now that you’ve written it USE IT!

Now get out there and make something happen. Going up?

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.

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