Henry Ford was Right!

It can be difficult to be unemployed and to find a new job.  It is hard, frustrating work. You have to put yourself out there, swallow your pride, ask for help and take rejection – a lot.  You have to sell yourself.  You have to talk to strangers.  You have to make looking for a job a full-time job in itself.  How’s that for a depressing way to open a blog post?

But, people do it every day.  You have probably done it more than once already. There are lots of harder things you have done and will do in your life.  While challenging, the job search can also be a great learning experience, and if you do it right, you’ll come out at the other end with not just a new job, but with step up in your career, a number of new network contacts, and hopefully you’ll even learn something about yourself.  You will know that you stepped up, met the challenge, and were successful.  To sound like Polly-Anna, every cloud has silver lining.

I enjoy words.  I love songs more for the lyrics than the melodies.  I like to hear how someone can turn a phrase and make a complex idea simple, or provide that brief shot of motivation.  One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford.  Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” This quote is all about attitude and confidence.

Looking for a job can be hard work, and if you get up each day thinking, “I can’t do this – I’ll never find a job – no one wants to hire me,” then Ford would say “you’re right,” and you should probably go back to bed.   But the fact is, you’re wrong.  There are jobs. You have skills, and you can learn new ones. There are people who are willing to help you.  The opportunity is there for success.  Grab it!

But it starts with you. Think, “I can.”

If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Where are you aiming?

When I network with job seekers, many are more adept at the search process than I was when I first had to do it.  They have good looking resumes; they know how to network; and they are getting better at being prepared and doing their research.  But most still have not prepared one of the most important job search documents.

If you are job seeker you need a Target List.  This is a list of 20-25 organizations where you think you might want to work.  You may not know if they have job openings, but they are organizations who might be a fit for you due to their industry, location, size, reputation, what-have-you.

Inevitably, during a networking meeting you ask, “Do you know anyone that I should talk to?”  All too often your host says, “No, I can’t think of anyone.”  The prepared job seeker then pulls out the Target List and says “Here is a list of organizations that I’d like to know more about.  Do you know anyone who works at any of these?”  Now the conversation can begin anew.

That list of companies will spark some potential contacts, “Oh, my next door neighbor works for XYZ Company.”  You may also hear, “You don’t want to work for that company; they’re a sweat shop.”  Whatever the feedback, you’ll have more information that you did at the beginning of the conversation and that’s what networking is all about.

Target Lists should be updated continually, adding new organizations and removing those that aren’t the fit you’d hoped they were.  Format the list to look like your resume – same headers, fonts, paper, etc.  You want this to be a professional looking document that has the same feel as your other search related papers.

If your networking is not yielding the success you need, add a Target List into the mix.  I guarantee it will make your networking sessions more productive and speed you on to that next career adventure.

If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Hunting for Easter Eggs

Tomorrow is Easter.  Spring is here, the pandemic appears to be waning, and there is an atmosphere of hope in the air that we haven’t felt for a long time.  Hopefully, you will be able to spend some time with family and friends this weekend, and maybe you’ll get to hunt for Easter eggs.

In my family there is a tradition of hiding plastic eggs in and around the house, supposedly left by the Easter Bunny, and then allowing the children to hunt for those eggs.  Inside the eggs might be candy, money, small toys, or maybe stickers.  For me, the best eggs had chocolate in them, next came those with money (pennies and nickels), and then toys, and way at the bottom of the list were stickers.  I never was much of a sticker kind of kid.

Networking can sometimes feel like an Easter egg hunt.  You race around, looking in every corner, under every branch, and under every rock, hoping to find an egg (a new contact).  And then you find someone who is willing to talk with you and you arrange a meeting.  In your mind, you hope that when you open this contact they will pour out a mountain of chocolate eggs (new contacts).  It will be glorious!  But, when you finally crack open that egg, you find a wrinkled SpongeBob sticker.

Networking is a process. Every contact you meet will not hold the key to your future. But somebody does. If you work hard enough, there is a high likelihood that someone that you meet will lead you to your next job. Somebody will introduce you to somebody, who will introduce you to somebody, who has been looking for a person just like you. So, if you happen to open a whole carton of eggs filled with stickers, don’t stop.  Your chocolate egg is still out there.  Keep hunting.

I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Easter Weekend.  If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


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 (unless you can do it in style, go viral and get an offer from Queen Latifah).

Burning Bridges has some very different connotations.  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 really where I come in.  

To me, burning bridges means a scorched earth policy.  It means trashing your former boss or company, or using confidential information inappropriately.  (Can you hear Johnny Paycheck in the background?) These are career limiting decisions and can have horrible effects on your job search.

Regardless of how you leave a job, leave it with as much dignity and grace as possible.  Follow Ms. Thorman’s advice.  After you’re gone, 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 strongly support not burning your bridges, because you may need them.

If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Your resume needs more than content – it needs context

Let’s talk about your resume.

Most resumes I see contain a career history; a list of jobs where the person has worked, and often some description of their duties or responsibilities.  But what is missing is context.  Someone may tell me they managed this, or implemented that, but there is nothing to suggest that they managed it well or what impact the implementation had on the organization.  Without the context, their “responsibilities” are interesting, but not particularly helpful.

A list of accomplishments tells the recruiter what you’ve done and how successful you’ve been. It provides context to your work history.  The premise is that what you have accomplished for prior organizations, you can accomplish for the next one.  The good news is, that premise is usually accurate.

Separate your career history (which you still need) from your accomplishments.  Include a section where you quantify what you’ve accomplished.   A “responsibility” might read: “Responsible for managing a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000” which is impressive.  But imagine instead that the “accomplishment” said “Successfully managed a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000 with turnover substantially below the organizational average and expenses within budget,” then we’d know a lot more about you.

Put together a list of 10-15 of your career highlight accomplishments, then pull the 5-7 that really fit the job you are applying for, and sort them by order of importance to the job you are applying for. Now you have a customize resume for a specific position.  In your cover letter, highlight the top one or two accomplishments.  Tell the hiring manager how much you increased sales or profits, reduced expenses, expanded market share, etc.  That is what will open their eyes, and get you the interview.

If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Does Networking Really Work?

Maybe you’ve been looking for a job for a while, and you are getting frustrated?  I can understand that, but I need to stress networking really is the key.  I have worked for 14 different organizations in my life. Three were before I graduated from college and the rest make up my professional career.   I have applied for at least one-hundred jobs, online or via mail, and I’ve had lots of interviews; but I have never been hired because I responded to a job posting. 

I got my first job at age 14 by asking about a help-wanted sign in the window of a fast-food restaurant.  One time I found a job through a professional recruiter. Every other job I’ve had, I found through networking.  Each time, someone I knew suggested that I talk with someone they knew, and those introductions led to an interview, and to a job offer.

It’s also important to understand that I don’t quit jobs very often.  Seven of the organizations I have worked for asked me to leave due to position eliminations, business closings, or changes in ownership.  Once, I was recruited away, and once, I left a part-time job for a full-time job.  And twice, when I couldn’t find a job, I became a one-man consulting company. So, I needed to learn to network.

You should also know that some of my transitions were quick, and some were not.  The first time I got “fired” was my first job out of college. The bank I worked for was about to be sold and I was told on the Monday before Thanksgiving that my department was being eliminated and my job would end after Christmas.  The good news was that I got to be a stay-at-home dad with my infant daughter for a month.  And, I networked into a better job before my severance ran out.  Twice, I was able to identify a new job before the current job ended, so I easily moved from one to the next.  One time I looked for three months before deciding to give consulting a try full time.  One time it took me 13 months to land a new job.

So, I get it.  Job search can be frustrating and exhausting.  You may find a job quickly, or your search could drag on, and on. And, while you need to work with search firms and to apply for jobs you see advertised, networking is the key. Through networking you can learn more, reach more people, and find jobs that are never advertised (six of my jobs were never posted).

From my experiences I wrote a book.  If you are struggling, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Do I Have to Network?

Simple answer.  No, not if you are not in any hurry to find a good job.  Feel free to search the internet and apply for every job that might fit you.  Practice telling yourself that it’s not your fault.  Blame in on the economy, or maybe on the corona virus.

Here’s the bottom line.  For whatever reason, you lost your job, and you need a new one. From my experience, the best way to find a new or better job is networking.  Networking means talking to people and getting to know them. Make sure they know about you, what you do, what you’re good at, how you’ve been successful before.  Then, asking them for names of people they know who you could also meet and tell them the same things.  Then, thank them for their help, and finally, be willing to do the same for others.

Networking requires you to be vulnerable.  It requires you to interact with people you don’t know.  Networking may be uncomfortable for some.  But it is the only way you’ll be exposed to the 75% of jobs that are never advertised.

Now, let’s get out there and knock on some doors.

If you need some help, read this. https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Can’t Someone Just Do This For Me?

A friend of mine recently left his job – Director Level – over ten years with the same organization – had not looked for a job since he graduated from college.  We were talking about the job search process and he looked at me and said “can’t I just hire someone to do this for me?”

There are people in the world who will offer to do just that.  There are recruiters (aka head hunters), search firms, employment agencies, placement firms, placement consultants, staffing agencies, and temporary placement firms.  All of these want to help you find your next job.  You just have to understand the risks.

The primary thing to keep in mind, is that virtually all of these are for-profit businesses that make money from either you or the organization that hires you.  Therefore, their goal may not always be to find you the best job for you, their goal is to fill the job so they get paid.

There are two basic types of head hunters – retained search firms and contingency search firms.  Retained firms are hired by the organization to find the best candidate for the organization.  They are typically paid a percentage of the new hire’s annual salary (usually 30-35%) plus expenses and they typically do good work.  Because of the expense, retained search firms usually are only hired for bigger jobs (executive level jobs).  The best ones know that their long-term success comes from placing candidates who will be successful, which will garner them additional business.

Contingency search firms are not “hired” by anyone.  They attempt to match candidates with jobs, but they are only paid if the organization hires someone they introduce to the organization.  For many of these firms, the key to their success is volume and they will send as many candidates to an organization as possible in hopes that one of them stick.  Contingency firms usually charge a fee of 20-25% of the new hire’s annual salary.

Placement firms, temporary firms, and contacting agencies are the other major players in the employment market.  They hire workers and place them in positions with their clients.  Depending on the nature of the work, those placements could be for several hours and up to several years.  The understanding could be that the employee will always work for the agency, or that they are temp-to-hire, meaning the organization can “test drive” the worker, and if they are successful, hire that person from the agency.  These firms may provide a full benefit package to the employees, or they may simply pay them.  For temporary placement and/or temp-to-hire, these firms will typically mark the employees’ salary up 50% to cover their cost and margins – so if they are paying the worker $10 per hour, they charge the company $15.

Depending on the type of job you are looking for, the urgency of your search, and the industry that you are in, any of these options might be right for you.  The higher you are in your organization, the more likely it is that you should introduce yourself to both retained, and contingency search firms so that they might be able to match you with one of their clients.  If you work in IT, contract-to-hire placements are becoming the normal method for find a job.

My primary message is for to understand that while any or all of these organizations might help you, their goal is not to help you, but to make money from that transaction.  Using an agency can be a great arrow for your quiver, but it should not be your only arrow.  Talk to recruiters and agencies and understand your options, but don’t wait for them to find you a job.  Instead, network, research, apply and conduct your own search, while they do theirs, and hopefully everything will come together quickly.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.  Now available in both print and eBook formats!  Click here for more details.


New Years: Remembrances and Resolutions – Part 2

Yesterday we talked about remembering 2015.  I hope you did that and celebrated how far you’ve come in life.

Okay, now spin your chair around 180° and let’s look into the future.  What does 2016 hold and how are we going to be prepared for it?  Inc.  Magazine asked people what they wanted to accomplish in 2016.  The number one answer was to enjoy life to the fullest (read the full list here).  Your resolution might be to find a job -not just any job – the right job.

If finding that new, better job is one of your resolutions, allow me to make a few suggestions to increase your likelihood of success.

Make a plan – Regardless of what your resolution is, there are three things you can do that will help you live it: 1) write it down, 2) include milestone dates and measures, and 3) make it public.  For your job search, set goals for how many people you are going to network with each week, how many emails and phone calls you will need to set up those networking meetings, how many new companies you will to research, etc.  Remember, looking for a job should be a full time job.  Make a plan that uses 8 hours a day – productively – two finding that best job then share that plan with a few key supporters – maybe even post it on Facebook.

Network – I can almost guarantee that you will not get that next BEST job, unless you network.  My suggestion is that each week you meet 5-10 people you have never met before, tell them your story, and ask for their help.  You will be amazed and what happens.

Be prepared – Every time you go to a meeting or an interview, be prepared.  Have your polished resume and target list with you.  Know as much as you can about who you will be talking to and the job/company you are interviewing for.  Be sure to have and practiced (aloud) your answers to common interview questions.

Be thankful – Say thank you – send thank-you notes – let people know how much you appreciate their time, their energy, their encouragement.  Even when you don’t think they were very helpful, thank them.

Be persistent – The economy is rebounding.  There are more jobs available, but I still tell people to plan for their search to take one month for every $10,000 in annual salary they hope to earn.  A $50k job might take 5 months to find.  Not any $50k job – but the right $50k job for you.  Plan the work, and work the plan.

If you are reading this blog thinking “but I don’t know how to do these things,” then you’ve come to the right place.  Search this blogs for tips on all of these subjects.  Or, buy the book (see below).  Or read someone else’s book or blog.  The help is there – the jobs are there – we just need to get you connected with one of them.

Speaking of resolutions – I resolve to help you find that next-best job in 2016.  Happy New Year!

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.  Now available in both print and eBook formats!  Click here for more details.


New Years: Remembrances and Resolutions – Part 1

Looking back – wow!  Its hard to believe that 2015 is over.  I encourage you to take a few minutes and reflect on this year – the good and the bad.  For me, this was a good year professionally.  It was a good year educationally as I’ve finished my coursework and begun working on my PhD dissertation.  I can celebrate having a wonderful and supportive family.  That family celebrated the life of my father who passed away in May.  My respect for him and the impact he made on so many people’s lives continues to grow.  Editorially, I’m Fired came out in print and for the second consecutive year over 1,000 people visited the website.  If you are one of those people, thank you.  I can confidently say I am a fortunate man.

So, how about you?  If you’re reading this blog it is likely that you are a job seeker.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not, but there is more to your life than your job.  Use this opportunity to take it all in, and appreciate what you have, and make time to let others know that you appreciate what they mean to you.  If you are in job search, reflect back on what you know and what you’ve learned.  You will need a good sense of where you came from before you can clarify where you want to go.

Take time today, before the celebrations tonight, to look back on 2015.  Enjoy your successes, remember those who you lost, accept what you have, and know that you are not alone.  One of my favorite poems is Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, and I encourage you to read it.  When I was in college, the Dean of Men had poster-sized version on the wall behind his desk and he would regularly recite it to young men who were struggling.  The final lines are:

“and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be careful.  Strive to be happy.”

Happy New Year!  Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about resolutions.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another.  Now available in both print and eBook formats!  Click here for more details.