Wednesday 26 May 2010 at 8:01 pm
"You're brilliant, we're hiring" read the ad offering employment opportunities at Google. That statement grabbed the attention of Minnie Ingersoll's mom. She told her daughter and yada yada, so on and so forth, Minnie is now a Product Manager at Google. Sounds easy but is that all it took? Yes, if you are Google. However, what about Minnie, how did her resume rise to the top? For one, she was brilliant, or at least her mom thought so and now Google. But, what may have helped the most was she leveraged her experience as a Stanford computer science graduate to network with former classmates who were employed at Google. BINGO! The majority of jobs are filled by word-of-mouth.
Oh, the power and influence of alumni. Any idea how many Stanford graduates are employed by Google? I was unable to find the number on Google but I did learn that Google targets Stanford Computer Science graduates . No surprise.
There is nothing wrong with a company hiring graduates from the school where the CEO or other senior executives have graduated. In fact, it is quite common. Success breeds success and familiarity also breeds familiarity. You tend to go with who you know and what you know.
Your mission as a prospective job candidate is to get known. Minnie leveraged the one factor in her background that could get her known. It was a fairly significant factor but that was all she needed to get in the door. In 2009, Southwest Airlines received over 90,000 resumes and they hired less than 1,000 people. That is a 90 to 1 ratio. I can only imagine what the ratio must be for other companies like Google.
Minnie beat the odds and so can you. Minnie looked inside the organization to identify someone who could provide her insight into the company and perhaps even a referral or personal recommendation. You can do the same. It may be a college affiliation or perhaps a former colleague from a company where you worked or volunteered. What you need to do is determine how your world intersects with someone on the inside of a company you are targeting. You will likely be one to three people removed from them and that is a gap you can close.
Since we have been discussing Google you need to apply the principles of search when networking. The best way to find a needle in a haystack is to have a magnet. The magnet in networking is that person who will help open doors. What is it about you that will help them connect to you?
Wednesday 19 May 2010 at 12:57 pm
A former boss asked could he fire someone because they were weird. The person had some strange ways. It is hard to explain except you know strangeness when you see it. I told him unless it was interfering with their ability to do the job or creating a hostile environment to fire someone because they were a little weird was not something we could do. Although, eventually his idiosyncrasies interfered with his ability to be effective and we did fire him.
However, who among us is not idiosyncratic? For each of us has some kind of behavior that is distinctive and peculiar to us and that is the definition of idiosyncratic.
Me, I have a few favorite words, at least that is all I am willing to admit to in this blog. One of my favorite words, I did not realize until a friend told me his son was using it. No, it was not an expletive. The word was "sure."
In my career coaching, I sometimes have to help people overcome their idiosyncrasies. Using the word "sure" may not be a showstopper but other behaviors might. Such as, a nervous laugh, talking too fast or not fast enough, chewing your fingernails, looking up or not making eye contact and as I mentioned repeating words or phrases. Any of these and others can detract from your ability to communicate effectively.
One of my personal favorites is another former boss of mine liked to play with coins, dimes to be specific. He had a stack of six or 7 dimes on his desk. Whenever you met with him, he would pick them up and begin to shuffle them. One day a coin dropped and rolled under his desk. He tried to pretend nothing happened and we of course went along with it. It was hilarious watching him searching for the coin with his foot. He was in a panic and we were trying to keep a straight face.
The moral of the story is we all have idiosyncrasies. Do you know what yours are (yes plural) and can you manage them effectively.
Monday 17 May 2010 at 3:55 pm
In the age of instant oatmeal, texting and twittering the average American wants it now. However, when it comes to job search the majority of employers do not serve anything that even resembles instant. Employers post their vacancies on job boards and/or their website and with the push of a button receive hundreds of interested applicants. To which the applicant will not receive even as much as an electronic thank you very much. This is the norm so is it any wonder that candidates wonder should they follow up.
The answer is YES, according to Harry Urschel, author of Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up @SmartBrief. Mr. Urschel offers 6 ways to follow up when job hunting. They are pretty good and it reminded me of the Simon and Garfunkel song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. So I took Mr. Urschelís suggestions and made a few tweaks so you can sing them to the tune of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. That way you may remember to do them. The chorus starts with "slip out the back, jack" so here goes.
Set yourself apart, Bart. (less than 25% of people send a thank you note of any kind)
it will help seal the deal, Neal (it is all about building relationships)
to mention what you forgot to say, May (to clarify information about yourself)
Don't need to be long winded, Melinda (think of Twitter and say it in 140 characters)
Just be a pro, Joe (keep it formal and avoid being too casual or familiar)
and stay in touch, Hutch (have a rhythm without being a pest)
Will get you noticed.
If you want to be off the charts send a singing telegram. Job search is serious business, but so is professional sports and the athletics have fun playing it.
Saturday 15 May 2010 at 10:36 am
How do you build an effective network when you have a job? It may be surprising to learn that most people do not network either inside their company or outside. This is a lost opportunity. To take advantage of networking within your company, you must overcome the barriers to internal networking. Those barriers are:
1. I don't need to because I have a job. True, but is this your forever job? As Yogi Berra once said, "The future ain't what it used to be."
2. I don't know whom to contact. Not true, you have access to the people in your chain of command, department, division, etc. You also have access to the one thing an outsider does not and that is the company organization chart, complete with phone numbers and email addresses. You also meet people at company functions i.e., training, cafeteria, town halls, business presentations, affinity groups, etc.
3. I don't know what to say. Not true, you work in the same company and as such have a lot in common. You contribute to the bottom line. Talk about the business, where it is going, how it could be improved, what is working, what is not working, ask them how they got to where they are. The dialogue is endless you just need to know the metrics of the business.
4. What will my colleagues think (that I am a self-promoting brown noser). Internal networking is self-prompting and if you don't do it who will. I am half-serious. Internal networking is delicate and the perception can be that you are stepping over the line. Especially if you meet with executives, who are higher than your boss is. My suggestion is you discuss your objectives with your boss and get his or her support before you go outside the chain of command. The best thing would be to have your boss refer you. As for your fellow colleagues, they can do the same thing you do.
Internal networking will help you with your career goals. Remember the majority of people do not network so this is a competitive advantage for you and most job vacancies are filled by word of mouth. This applies to internal jobs and external jobs.
Saturday 08 May 2010 at 11:56 am
One of the unique characteristics of human beings is the capacity to turn adversity into a positive. You have heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention and make lemonade out of lemons.
It starts early in life with the neighborhood lemonade stand. I think most kids have had a lemonade stand, including business celebrity Ivanka Trump (read The Trump Card). It is probably as much about adventure as it is trying to make some play money. This entrepreneurial spirit never leaves us but it can be hidden or worse yet buried. That is where adversity and/or necessity can bring it to life.
Take Sam for example. He is a successful Domino's Pizza Franchise Owner with 16 locations, 350 employees and over $13 million in annual sales. His journey began when he needed a job to fund his college education. He started as a delivery person and steadily advanced to supervisor. As he was about to graduate his boss came to him. There is a distressed Domino's store for sale she told him and would he like to consider buying it? He said why not.
Sam and his boss met with the Franchise owner who told him if you want to buy this store, you have to do it right now. Sam said he could not do that. The Owner insisted those were his terms if he wanted the store. Sam's boss grabbed a napkin and wrote these words "I Sam...agree to purchase Store #...for $1,500." That was 20 years ago. It took a lot of hard work but Sam has never looked back.
Sam's story is not so much about making lemonade out of lemons as it is recognizing an opportunity and seizing it. Sam had a different career path in mind but this opportunity appealed to the entrepreneur inside him. This is a lesson for all. Opportunity may not come along everyday and may not be this direct but it happens more often than we think. You just have to let it stir that inner entrepreneur.
Tuesday 04 May 2010 at 6:20 pm
As the economy, recovers and employers are starting to add staff. I read the Five Must Ask Interview Questions by Willa Plank in the Wall Street Journal. Willa interviewed Ben Dattner, of Dattner Consulting, to get his advice on the interview questions that employers should ask to assure they hire wisely. The five questions are as follows:
1. In what ways will this role help you stretch your professional capabilities?
2. What have been your greatest areas of improvement in your career?
3. What's the toughest feedback you've ever received and how did you learn from it?
4. What are people likely to misunderstand about you?
5. If you were giving your new staff a "user's manual" to you, to accelerate their "getting to know you" process, what would you include in it?
The goal of these questions, albeit cleverly worded are designed to divulge the "real you", your weaknesses and how you might fit in the organization. They are direct and may cause the inexperienced or even seasoned job candidate to drop their guard and blurt out something unrehearsed. That is an interviewer's dream and the job candidate's potential nightmare.
However, before you panic and call your Career Coach consider this. Could these questions be used to get the interviewer to reveal the "real organization"? Imagine asking the following:
1. In what ways will this role keep me from stretching my professional capabilities?
2. What are the greatest areas of need for improvement in this organization?
3. What is the organizationís experience with people who provide candid and direct feedback?
4. I imagine human behavior being what it is results in misunderstandings. What has been the process of dealing with them?
5. If I am hired what is the best way for me to accelerate my getting to know the team?
In order to determine whether you will fit in, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the organization just as much as they want to know yours. You have heard it said the best offense is a good defense. Well, I believe the best offense is a good offense.