Monday, September 11, 2006

"...With a Little Help From My Friends"

I have always felt that one of the best, if not THE best, sources of advice and counsel when it comes to career management is to talk to your peers. Indeed, trying to foster that sort of discusssion was a key factor when we started ExecuNet "back in the day" as they say. Given that we started in 1988, most of that peer counseling and experience sharing came from my logging long but very gratifying hours on the phone. It wasn't long before I was ready to buy stock in Hello Direct or Plantronics.

While I still spend my days strapped into a headset, the avenues now available for people to help eachother have, through the wonders of modern telecommunications, multiplied big time. In our case, in addition to the 40-50 face to face meetings we have in cities across the county on a monthly basis, we have members sharing all sorts of "learnings" both online and off.

Whenever I explore the myrid of topics being discussed, the thing I get the most satisfaction from is the degree to which members "get it" in terms of sharing and trying to help each other. Sure, each of us have our own agendas, interests, and goals. Everyone "wants" something. But if you don't have others who are willing to try and help you get to wherever it is you want to go, you may get there eventually, but for sure it will take you much, much longer.

As an example in our ExecuNet Forum, there has been an on-going discussion amongst several of our members in the sales function. The topic they have been kicking around is the challenge of changing industries, and as an aside, something that is on more peeople's minds than you might think. In our Executive Job Market Intelligence Report this year over 70% said they were considering this as a potential next step in their career.

Here's a sample of the kind of sharing that people are doing that came from one of the forum participants who goes by the handle JimOSales:

A few comments on the recent posts on this topic. One relates to the questions Steve in Jersey listed. I think they are all excellent things to explore. Ask what they are looking for and why, and what has worked for them in the past. If you find that industry experience has been no guarantee of success in the past, you might be able to get them to see beyond that factor.

I also agree with the post from 491318 suggesting that reaching this type of career crossroad is a great time to "re-think your life and do something you would really love doing." For me it was becoming a coach and helping people to become more successful--something I truly love. It is much easier to sell something you love than something that is just a means to the end of putting food on the table. I confess I had a lean year and a half while making the transition, yet I never looked back and I am better for having taken a road less traveled. Many of you have extensive sales experience and have probably trained other sales professionals. Perhaps a career in sales coaching is another avenue to consider. There are organizations like Resource Associates Corporation and Sandler Institute that are always looking for new people to do this kind of work.

Jim OSales continued:I met an interesting speaker and author recently (Kenneth Gronbach) and just finished reading his book, "Common Census: The Counter-Intuitive Guide to Generational Marketing." Some of you might find it of interest on a couple levels. First, it might give you some insight into industries that are likely to be up, as well as ones that are likely to be down, over the next 10-20 years. It might also be encouraging in that generational shifts have us heading into a period where we are likely to face labor shortages as Baby Boomers start to retire and a significantly smaller Generation X moves along in their careers. There is good news and bad news in these generational shifts. The key is to use the knowledge of where things are heading to your best advantage.

One final comment re: trying to convince someone that being an outsider is an advantage. We have a saying in our sales development process: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Your job is to make the horse thirsty." We ultimately can't convince anyone of anything. What we can do is ask them the kinds of questions that might help them convince themselves. It's hard for me to believe that every hiring manager out there has always had success with new hires from within the industry. I'm sure many hire the "experience ones" simply because that's the way it has always been done and it seems logical. But if you can probe and get them to acknowledge that the "experienced ones" don't always work out, perhaps you can shift the conversation to those qualities that do seem to have a direct correlation with success in the job.

Best to all in your transitions!
To coin a phrase, "what goes around comes around."


Steve Levy said...


First, I've known Dave for 15 years or so (omg) going back to the nascent days of Execunet when I ran several functional lead groups - well before FENG for example - and spent many hours linking people together. The tangible reward I received were thank you letters from people I assisted during a job search - some even turned into business down the road.

But I offered my time because others didn't - I guess it was just my way of helping others in ways people never reached out and helped me. Your career will take many swerves and at some point you'll need help. The folks who help you will be the people you helped before.

So make it a point to return all calls and emails asking for help - sometimes it may be as simple as reviewing someone's resume and offering a suggestion; other times you'll be in a position to do some matchmaking or hire someone - you just never know.

In the end, even a little help is good help.

And to those Execunet members reading this, my email is

Dave Opton said...

One of the loudest and long-standing frustrations that candidates express regarding the recruiting world (especially search) is the lack of feedback coupled with the perception that recruiters often convey a sense of taking rather than a willingness to give.

As you can see from Steve's comments here, he does not, happily, meet either of those criteria.

He believes it and lives it.