Clear Communications

I once had a consulting client show me a photo that made me want to both laugh and cry. The client worked for a clothing company. He had purchased a shipment of shirts from an overseas manufacturer. The photo was of a box of neatly folded shirts, each with a price tag attached to the tag in the neck. Okay so far, but when you looked closely at the price tag you could see that the tag was inside of a very small zip-top bag.

When my client opened the shipment, he was puzzled. Why were the shirts not wrapped, and why was there a bag on the price tag? He looked at the purchase order and it said “Shirt – folded – price tag attached – in bag.” (Yes, this is a true story.) The client had received 1,000 of exactly what he’d asked for – especially from someone with a limited command of the English language.

I think that I have a reasonably good command of the English language and I regularly see applicant communications that I don’t understand. Sometimes people accidentally forget to type a crucial word and the sentence doesn’t make sense. Sometimes spell-check corrects their mistake by picking a word that they didn’t intend. Sometimes they are just poor communicators. Fortunately, I don’t have to stop and figure out what they were trying to say, I simply move on to the next resume.

When you are communicating in writing, you must get it right – the first time. When the recipient of your message can’t hear your voice or see your body language, they can’t tell if you are joking, if you are confused, or if you just can’t communicate well. If you want to ensure that your message is received correctly, it must be perfect.

Use the tools you have available. Always set your word processor and email system to spell check before you send. Make sure have not confused weather with whether, to with two or too, or their and there. Reread your document aloud and make sure it sounds the way you want it. If necessary, have someone else check it before you send it.

This is all about attention to detail, and inattention will get your resume left behind. When you send in an application for new job, make sure you’re not sending in a price tag in a teeny-tiny plastic bag.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

The Seven Ps of Job Search

I had an idea – a blog post about persistence. I talked with a friend of mine not long ago and he told me that he was 0 – 60 in applications. He’d applied for 60 jobs and had yet to get an interview. Then, not more than a month later, I saw his LinkedIn update that he had a new job – and a good one. He had shown persistence and not given up.

Then I thought, maybe he had also shown perseverance. Not only had he needed to keep going looking (persistence) but he had also faced challenges. Over that time, he had income pressures. After an extended period of unemployment, it is easy to lose confidence, and he’d worked through that. Yeah, perseverance was a good word.

Positivity is another good word for his situation. During an extended search it is easy, and understandable, to get depressed. The problem is that depression feeds depression. If you allow yourself to feel down, it shows. The people you interview or network can feel it. They are less likely to hire you or share contacts if they sense you aren’t really interested. That interest jumps when you are enthusiastic and exude positive energy.

My friend also understood power. He knew that his attitude affected others and he knew that when you feel powerful, you are more confident and successful. Check out this amazing Ted Talk.

Planning was another constant in his search. Every week he planned his calls, follow-ups and thank you’s. He made plan for finding a new job and he worked that plan.

Another strength was praise. Throughout his search, he showered praise and encouragement on others. He did not miss an opportunity to thank someone for their time or support. He spoke well of his former employers and opportunities.

Finally, he was at peace. It’s easy to get angry. Angry at those who fired you and those who don’t hire you. However, anger is generally not a very helpful emotion. Peace, on the other hand is calming, reassuring, and steady. Peace is not passivity, indifference, or acceptance. It is a calm, controlled, assurance of good things to come.

So, persistence led me to perseverance, positivity, power, planning, praise and finally peace – the seven Ps of job search. Spend some time today thinking about your search and how you can put these Ps to work for you.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

Can You Help Me?

In 1951, famed journalist Edward R. Murrow launched a radio program called This I Believe. The idea was to have people, both famous and not, write and then read essays about what they believed in. NPR revised the idea in the mid-2000’s. I tell you this because if I had the opportunity to write such an essay I would write about the incredible ability of people to step in when others need help. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the generosity of humankind.

You can see this generosity in your job search. You just need to utter the magic words, “can you help me?” It is common for the networking-novice to ask, “Do you know anyone who is hiring?” The answer is inevitably, “No, sorry,” and that’s the end of the conversation. But, when you instead ask for help, people will. Asking for help can start a conversation that might lead you to your next job.

Is it really that simple? No, it’s not. When you ask, “can you help me?” the response will probably be, “I’m happy to if I can, what do you need?” If you follow that with, “Do you know anybody who’s hiring?” you’ll be right back where you started.

So how does that conversation go? Try this:

You: “Hi, Bob, Steve Jones said that you might be able to help me.”

Bob: “I will if I can. What can I do for you?”

You: “I recently lost my job and I’m meeting with other professionals like you to expand my network.”

Bob: “I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone who is hiring …”

You: “No, no, no, I ‘m not asking you for a job. I wouldn’t put you on the spot like that. I’d just like 10-15 minutes to tell you about my background, and then maybe you can suggest a few people you know who might be willing to do the same thing. As I connect with more people, eventually one of them will be hiring.

Bob: “Okay, tell me your story.”

Trust me, I’ve had this conversation more times than I want to admit, and people will help.

If, at the end of the conversation the response is, “I’d love to help, I just don’t know anyone that I think can help you,” then you pull out your target list and say, “I understand, maybe this will help. Here is a list of 20 companies that I would like to know more about. By any chance do you know anyone that works at one of these companies?”

People can be amazingly generous and helpful. You just have to ask for their help. Now, if you were to write an essay for This I Believe, what would you write about? Wow, that would make a great interview question …

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

What’s In A Name?

Any Shakespeare fans out there? You’ve hear this phrase before, but did you know it is from a piece of classic literature?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

This is a lovely sentiment, and when it comes a person’s given name it’s probably true. For the most part, we can’t control the names given to us by our parents. Sure, you could change it or go by a nickname, but your name is your name, and it’s part of who you are.

The same cannot be said of your email address. Maybe it’s because I’m just old and grumpy, but I think if you are going to go out into the professional job market and look for professional job, you should take the ten minutes that are required to set up a professional sounding email address.

As an HR person I see lots of emails and resumes, and if Shakespeare is right, it shouldn’t matter; but I have trouble sending a job offer to I have a friend whose high school nickname was Pammy-Cakes. That makes a great personal email address for her – or for Facebook – but not a resume. Does it help or hurt if you apply for job with the email LovesToCook14 or GolfAddict27?  Unless you are applying to be a cook or golf pro, I suggest it hurts.

Set up an email address that is a variant of your name like bob.smith, bsmith2014, robert.m.smith, whatever. You may need a use a number that makes it unique (there are lots of Bob Smiths) but don’t use your birth year- they don’t need to know how old you are.

I’ve written before about the importance of a first impression. Don’t let that impression be marred because the recruiter’s gets an email from

BTW – The quote is from Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II – Juliet says this to Romeo suggesting that she has no problem with him being a Montague when she’s a Capulet. Now you have some culture in your job search. 🙂

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.