Friday, May 26, 2006

The Age Thing

While certainly the issues surrounding age as an issue in employment is no joking matter, every once in a while you hear a story that makes you smile anyway. The most recent for me came when I was referred to it by Gerry Crispin's post on his blog (The CareerXRoads Annex) which if you don't have it on your reading list would be an excellent one to add.

The post Gerry was blogging about was about a piece he saw in John Sumser's Electronic Recruiting News. Specifically, a piece that ran on the 22nd of May called The Hunt. As Gerry pointed out it isn't just that it is a really wonderfully well written piece, but one that brings a smile as well.

After I had read it, it reminded me of another "smile" story that my friend and world-class executive coach Bob Cuddy once told when he was talking about the age issue at one of our networking meetings some years ago.

He told us that the oldest client he had ever worked with was 92. So as it turns out, the guy gets an interview for a CFO opening with a manufacturing company in New Jersey. Bob gets him all tuned up for the interview and sends him off. Next day, Bob calls him to see how things went, and the client says "Well, I spent several hours there. Talked to the CEO, the VP of Operations, VP of R&D, Logistics, and VP of Sales & Marketing. So Bob, says, "Wow, that's great, what's next?" The client says "Well, they made me an offer, but I don't think I'm going to take it."

Bob, of course, was thunder struck and after explaining that getting interviews much less offers at age 92 is not an everyday occurrence, asked him why he thought he would turn it down. The client shot back "Well Bob, to be honest, after spending all the time I did with these guys and listening to what was going on there, I really am not sure how long they'll be around!"

Bob swears it is a true story. Knowing Bob, I don't doubt it for a minute.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Advice vs. Opinions

Everybody has pieces of their job that you like and look forward to. It helps to somewhat offset those pieces that drive you crazy and leaving you feeling like you could easily become a two or three martini poster child in very short order.

One of the pieces of my job that helps me to repress the martini merited events is when I have the chance to get out of the office and meet and talk with executives at one event or another. It's just plain fun for me, and more importantly, a great learning opportunity.

Last night it was an especially rewarding evening because I had been asked (by my colleague Bob Weber our VP of Enterprise Marketing) to not only be on a panel to talk to a joint meeting of the Wharton and Columbia Bschool clubs in our area, but because the other panelist was going to Judy Rosemarin, President and Founder of a NYC based company called Sense-Able Strategies.

I have been fortunate enough to have known and worked with Judy for 10+ years (I never can remember exactly how long) as she has served as the host and facilitator of our networking meetings in Manhattan. We have also been lucky enough to have her as the presenter of one of our most popular FastTrack programs which she calls: Winning Interviews: Converse, Connect, Convince. She has a passion for what she does, and among other aspects of her coaching practice, she loves getting her clients ready to be killer interview candidates. All of which is to say that having been an executive coach for more than 20 years, it isn't surprising that every time I listen to her, I learn something, and last night was no exception.

We were talking to the audience about the types of things that help people to become more effective at networking, and in particular what were some of the things that made people more comfortable and willing to help.

It was at this point that Judy suggested that one critical thing to do was to not ask people for "advise" but rather to seek their "opinion." It was one of those moments when you slap yourself on the forehead and say "why the hell couldn't I have thought of it that way?" It is such an important distinction, and as she went on to explain asking for advice creates pressure because there is an implicit risk of "what if my advice is wrong," whereas if you ask me for my opinion, the risk feels much, much less. Hell, as Judy said, "we all have opinions, and actually like to express them."

Every time I go to any event, or listen to any speaker, it is always my hope to walk away with a "take home." Something I can use in my job that will hopefully help to make me better at what I do. Judy does coaching for a living, I don't, but I do get "networked with" a fair amount, and while I have never objected to it, I vividly recall the discomfort I have felt as people would ask me for advice.

From here on out, I don't plan to offer as much advice as I will offer an opinion.
Thanks Judy.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

There Is No Such Thing As The Universal Solvent

I recently saw a study published by blog search engine Technorati taken in February that said that blogs were being created at a rate of
67.000 a day. Obviously, and even with modern conveniences like RSS feeds, etc., it is still impossible to keep up with what at times very much feels like a digital tsunami.

The bottom line is that one has to make choices, and one of the choices I made when it came to trying to stay tuned into the career management world was to make sure that I was on Pete Weddle's newsletter list. Anyone who follows the online recruiting space certainly knows who Pete is, and even if they don't, they still read what he has to say with great interest.

For our part, we spend a good deal of time trying to help our members, especially those who have not been active in the job market for a number of years, to come to understand what the real world of career management is really all about. In the age of point and click and when answering ads is simply a matter of turning on your PC or pressing send on your Treo, it is very easy to be seduced into a posture of simply sitting back and waiting for the world to come to you.

Leave it to Pete to help bring things back to earth, and the piece he did in his May 11th issue was just one more example of his ability to provide really worthwhile advice to anyone who has fallen into the trap of thinking that one's ROI in a job search is simply plug and play.

The article he wrote was entitled The 7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Job Seekers. As they say in the UK, it was "spot on."

Here is Pete's list:

Habit #1: Limiting the time and effort you invest in your job search

Habit #2: Limiting the research you do to plan your search campaign

Habit #3: Limiting your search to a handful of the same job boards

Habit #4: Limiting your application to clicking on the Submit button

Habit #5: Limiting your use of the Internet to reading job postings

Habit #6: Limiting the care you take with your communications

Habit #7: Limiting the preparation you do for employer interactions

To borrow a phrase, "the man knows whereof he speaks."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

With Friends Like That....

Ever wonder when it comes to referrals when you are in an "active" job search that your "A" list never seems to be the group from which the "link" really comes? I certainly have, and I am guessing so have a lot of others.

While I am not sure it is a definitive answer,while attending the annual conference for ACP in Boston a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance (and privilege I might add) to sit in on a presentation given by Larry Stybel, the Stybel in Stybel Peabody & Associates in Boston.

Larry is both an outstanding writer as well as speaker. The subject of his talk in Boston was based on an article he wrote in the MIT Sloan school management newsletter entitled "Friend, Foe, Ally, Adversary...or Something Else?" Very interesting stuff, and when I was listening to Larry explain to us the difference between friends, allies, adversaries and enemies I thought this would be a good thing to post in the blog, but my friend Sheryl Spainer whose blog I subscribe to posted something on the same subject and captured, as she always does, the essence of the message. So rather than reiterate what she has already stated so well, I would suggest if you are interested you just check out what she had to say. The blog post is called Enduring Allies.

If you are tired of hearing us at ExecuNet talk about networking that "isn't working" and were wondering why, you might want to take a few minutes and check out what Sheryl has to say. While we are banging the same drum, sometimes hearing it from someone else can help.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Talent Management vs. Career Management

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Boston attending the annual meeting of The Association of Career Management Professionals International - ACP for short. Great weather and great content quickly made me not to be upset over the fact that I was giving up a glorious spring weekend.

In any case, among the featured speakers was Dr. Edgar Schein, the well known and respected professor of management at MIT's Sloan school of management. The title of his talk was Discovering Your Real Values which was built around his many years of research on what he calls discovering one's career anchors. Fascinating stuff to those of us who follow this sort of thing, and hearing it from a source such as Dr. Schein, was an added treat.

What prompted me to say something about this experience here wasn't Dr. Schein's remarks per se but rather a phrase that he used during his presentation. The phrase was Talent Management versus Career Management. I am almost certain that he said the phrase did not originate with him, but in my notes, I guess I didn't write down where it came from, so for that and to the inventor I apologize.

I bring it up because the phrase, at least for me, was one of the most precise ways I have heard to describe the change in relationship of employer and employee. Indeed, it is a phrase that one could really say has applied to many, many years, not just recently. It is just that it may seem like it is new concept because up until 10 or 15 years ago, most of us kept telling ourselves that our employer was really "interested" in helping us to more effectively manage our careers, and while there have been and even are today, some companies that really are, by and large, they aren't.

What lots of us wanted to think of as company sponsored career management was really company sponsored talent management, and there's a significant difference as I am guessing anyone who has read this far already knows. Talent management is the WIFM for the employer. Career management is the WIFM for the employee. If they happen to match up from time to time, that's great, but make no mistake about where the interests lie for each.

I don't mean to say that this is necessarily bad. I really don't think it is. Indeed, with something that makes the delineation as clear as this phrase does, I think it can only help individual executives internalize and therefore hopefully act upon the notion that when it comes to your career, nobody cares about you more than you.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

To Be Remembered & To Be Referred

Robyn Greenspan, the Sr. Editor one of our member newsletters, (CareerSmart Advisor) sent me some stats the other day on what was going on in the blogosphere. Pretty wild stuff:

Technorati now tracks over 35.3 Million blogs
- The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months
- It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
- On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
- 19.4 million bloggers (55%) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
- Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour

With numbers like the foregoing one wonders a lot of things, not the least of which is if all those people are blogging, who the heck is reading it all? Well, as we all know, the answer is a lot of people are, and there continues to be an on going debate about the impact of blogs on almost anything you can name, including one's career.

I came across a blog the other day called Scobleizer. It is authored by Robert Scoble who is a bit of a guru on the subject of blogging and has a book on it entitled: Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.

Of particular interest to me, however, was the commentary going on relative to a posting he had on the site titled Blogging and Careers. By the time I got there, there were already some 17 comments covering a wide variety of flavors.

Even though they have been around for a while, I am not sure anyone is really totally sure if (a) blogs are here to stay, and if so, (b) what they will ultimately morph to.

What I do believe, however, is that when it comes to careers and the managing thereof, the use of telecommunications can be, as they say, a two-edged sword.

Indeed, my colleague Robyn actually has done a fair amount of research on the subject, and because "digital dirt" is becoming such an issue, even wrote a career guide for our members called Dealing With Your Digital Dirt.

On top of that, I got a call a couple of weeks ago from a producer at NBC Nightly News who wanted to talk me about the same subject as they were doing segment on the good, bad, and ugly of putting yourself out on the net be it MySpace, blogs, or whatever.

As the taping was winding down, the producer asked me if there was anything more I thought the audience should know about the impact of managing their careers when people are running around telling the world what they think about almost anything you want to name.

The response that came to my mind was not to try and argue the merits or demerits of "free speech" etc., but to remind people of two things:

1. The world operates on perception, and what you say and how you say it has an enormous impact on the perception they have or will have, and

2. If you are serious about managing your career, at any level, the name of the game is “To Be Remembered & To Be Referred,” and before you press the send button, keep in mind that you can be remembered for the wrong reasons as well as the right reasons.