Pray for Whirled Peas

I have a friend who has a t-shirt that intrigues me.  The shirt has a graphic of a round green and blue swirled ball that vaguely resembled the view of Earth from space.  The caption is “Pray for Whirled Peas.” It is great! She also has one that simply says (in large letters) HUMANKIND (and in smaller letters) BE BOTH.

These two shirts have, rather obliquely, spawned this post.  I’ve worked with a lot of job seekers and the key to finding a job remains networking.  For many, if not most people, networking is difficult.  You have to put yourself in some uncomfortable positions to tell your story over and over.  You have to make yourself vulnerable and ask for help (now I’m starting to sound like Dr.  Phil).  Bottom line – it’s not fun, but it has to be done.

But what makes networking even harder is when you run up against someone who refuses to help.  Someone who doesn’t want to hear your story – or even worse, who makes you go through your whole spiel an then says “Sorry, I don’t know anyone who is hiring.” HUMANKIND people! BE BOTH.

If someone asks you to help them with their network, say yes.  Listen closely to their story and be empathetic to their position.  Always refer them to someone and in those rare instances where they’ve already talked to everyone you know ask to see their Target list.  Encourage and support them in any way that you can.  Make sure they always get something from you: a name, an organization, a job search tip, something.  Do what you can so that when they walk away 15 minutes later they feel better about their job search.

I can hear some of you thinking … “Why?!? The job market is crappy and sometimes these people just need a dose of reality.  They need to wake up and smell the coffee.  This is no land of fairies and rainbows.  There are no jobs like they want, they need to step off their high horse and just get back to work doing anything.”

And my answer to you is “Put a sock in it buddy.” You do not know everything.  You cannot predict the future.  Your job in the networking process is to be helpful and supportive.  Reality will take care of itself.  There are two reasons that you need to behave like this.  One – it’s the right thing to do.  Two – you just might find yourself in this situation in the future and you’ll need friends.  You’ll want to go to the people that came to you and you’ll want them to be helpful and supportive.  It’s a small world and what goes around comes around.

Now, your take way from today is when someone asks you for networking help – give it to them.  And in your spare time, pray for whirled peas.

Where Can I Find A Job?

Wow.  Simple question – hard answer.  There are so many places to look for jobs these days, and so many people looking in them – what is the “best” place to look?  The answer (that you probably didn’t want to hear) is all of them.

The most popular “place” to look for a job these days is the Internet. While not really a place, it is a method you need.  You need to look (often) on all the major job boards – Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, CraigsList, etc.   (Look here for one list of the top 15 job boards.)  You may be one of thousands that is viewing that posting or applying for that job, but better 1 in 1,000 than 0 in 1,000.  Better yet, you need to find job boards that are specific to your industry or job type – the numbers are better there.  Regularly look at the website of every company on your target list (see my post from November 16th if you don’t have a target list).  Unfortunately, while lots of people look for jobs on the Internet, not many find them there.

You need to look in the newspaper.  Yeah, I know, the old fashioned want ads seem just so, old fashioned, but you gotta go there.  And don’t stop with your city’s main newspaper, look in the local papers and the “jobs” papers.  Look at all of them every week.  But again, while you need to look, most job seekers don’t find jobs there either.

Don’t forget the local unemployment office.  They have listings of jobs and they are paid to help people fill those jobs.  Plus, talk to recruiters, head hunters, temporary agencies, whatever you call them.  Let them know you are “available to industry.”

I’ve been looking for a good source of job-search statistics and I can’t find any that are both current and easy to cite, but everywhere I look I get the same general feel that if you do everything I’ve mentioned so far you’ve got at best a 50/50 chance of finding a job.  Was 50/50 not what you were hoping for?  What’s the real secret you ask?  Well, it’s not really a secret, but the answer is networking.

Networking is the key.  Somewhere between half and 95% of jobs that are filled (depending on who you ask) are never advertised.  They are filled when the hiring manager has an opening and knows a qualified candidate.  Those might be internal promotions or transfers, but more often than not the personal knowledge came from networking.

You need to tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job.  Take your resume with you everywhere you go.  Ask everyone you talk to for a referral to someone else.  They may not know of any jobs but their name will open another door.  When you can call or email a stranger and say “Bob Smith told me that you might be able to help me,” they will usually be willing to stop what they are doing and listen to your story.  Just keep repeating that process.

The message today is get out from behind that computer screen and go talk to people – face-to-face.  Tell them your story and ask them to refer you to someone they know.  That chain of people, while possibly long, will have the link to your next job.

Burning Bridges …

Johnny Paycheck sings “Take this job and shove it, I ain’t workin’ here no more.”  There is something liberating about just writing those words, much less being able to say them.  But walking into your boss’s office and doing your best Johnny Paycheck interpretation probably isn’t great career advice.

Burning Bridges has some very different connotations.  Here’s a link to an interesting blog post.  In this post Rebecca Thorman says that if burning bridges means cutting ties, then by all means, there are many good reasons to cut ties and move on.  I agree.  But she also says, “You shouldn’t just walk out. You should give notice and finish your projects and be polite (if for no other reason than your own sense of pride and accomplishment)” and that’s where I come from.  Burning bridges to me means a scorched earth policy and I think that mentality will limit your career.

Here’s another interesting blog post.  In this one, Roger Custer suggests that burning bridges may involve trashing your former boss or company, or using confidential information inappropriately.  Again, these are a career limiting decisions.

My advice is much like your mother’s was long ago, if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all – especially in an interview.  No interviewer wants to hear you bash your former company or complain about how poorly they treated you. Be a grown up, highlight the good parts or stay quiet.  I’m not advocating that you continue to work in an unhealthily atmosphere, but I am suggesting that you leave with your dignity intact.

I strongly support not burning your bridges, because you may need them.

Shhh- It’s a Secret …

I was working with a friend who was in a tizzy.  She was trying to apply for a new job that she really wanted, but she was stuck on one blank of the application – “Reason for Leaving.”  She had been fired from her last job for performance reasons and she was afraid that if she said that on this application then she would not get hired.  But, if she didn’t say that, and they found out, they would fire her for lying on her application.   What to do?!?!?

First thing – honesty is the best policy.  You should never lie on your resume, cover letter or a job application.  Making false statements is a lousy way to get ahead and will ultimately come back and bite you.  However, not telling a lie is a long way from telling 100% of the truth.  There are some options – any of which might be the right thing for you.

Be straightforward – “Terminated for performance reasons”.  Hopefully the company likes enough about your overall qualifications that they still interview you and you can explain (assuming you have a good explanation).

Misdirection – “Involuntary Separation”.  That could mean fired, RIFed, Laid Off, or anything.  Again, it gives them the opportunity to ask and for you to explain.

Avoidance – leave it blank.  You should not assume that because you leave it blank they will assume you were fired.  Leaving it blank gives them an opportunity to discuss the situation.

You can even try “Mutual Decision” approach – “they fired me before I could quit.”

The bottom line is you need to be prepared to explain why it didn’t work out for you at that job plus how you’ve learned from that so whatever happened won’t be a problem at your new job.

You also have to be honest with yourself.  If you were fired because you really were not any good at your job, save yourself the trouble and don’t apply for that kind of job again.  Find something your good at and do that.

Finally, here is what I have found to be true.  If you were meant to get this job, then you will get the opportunity to explain yourself and that explanation will satisfy the interviewer.  If they choose to be so short-sighted so as to pass on your resume just because you were asked to leave a job, then that is their loss.  Not only will they not have the pleasure of working with you, but there are lots of other good people they are going to miss.

Bottom line – tell the truth, as briefly as you can, and be prepared to explain.  That’s all you can do.