Tuesday, August 03, 2010

So Many Questions - So Few Answers

While there are literally dozens of issues where job changers look for answers such as on: resumes (functional vs. chronological), interviewing (what are the best ways to deal with questions that feel like they have no good answers), networking (how do you build one, keep it, expand it?), salary negotiation (when asked about compensation, what's the right answer?), age discrimination (how do you fight it?), follow-up (what's too little or too much?), changing industries (how is it done?) And the list goes on.

Unhappily, ginning up the list is easy. Knowing what to do next, however, is definitely a different issue.

All you have to do is go to your local bookstore (remember those?) or cruise around Amazon and check out the number of books available on career management to see what I mean.

The mere fact that there are literally thousands of books and probably tens of thousands of articles is enough to provide a clue that while most of us want "answers" the fact is that in the real world you get "opinions" and in most cases that will have to do.

To be sure, this fact is a source of no little frustration for many, especially senior level executives whose DNA is almost always type "A" and whose attention spans are measured in nanoseconds.

As I talk with ExecuNet members I certainly hear the frustration and once past the rants irrespective of subject, the question I get asked a lot is what, if anything, can I do about this stuff?

My short answer is it depends on your approach to problem solving.

My longer answer (i.e. suggestion) is to ask people to put on their business problem solving hat and focus on dealing with a job search as a business challenge because in essence that's what it is.

You are the product and your job as GM is to overcome the market hurdles for the product. That said, however, no one is asking you to fight through all this alone (that's why you have staff) and in terms of their membership, we are their staff.

Looking at it in this light, as GM, what would you do? Answer: You would do an analysis of the situation including sorting out the things over which you have no control and focus on the things you can control.

In terms of looking for a job, among other things, this would mean market research, product development, sales training, a product launch plan, monitoring the results and adjusting as needed.

It also would mean setting the appropriate expectations so as to help manage the inevitable "foul balls" and inherent impatience referred to above.

Alan Lakein is often given credit for the "Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail" line. I am not sure who said it first, but whoever did they were, as the Brits say, spot on and if ever there was a situation to which this statement applies, it is job changing.

Yet, so much of the frustration that people feel is driven by the understandable pressure that comes from the product being themselves and the fact that the product's entry into the market place is self-funded.

Patience is a lot easier when it's not your money supporting the enterprise.

Understood, but my point is that if you succumb to the pressure to act before you really have a plan to manage (read: click and pray), you are going to find yourself even more frustrated when your customer is not responding because they really don't understand what you are selling, why they need it and certainly don't have the time to find out.


Neil Morris said...

Hi Dave.

There's a case to be made for retaining a qualified third party to alleviate many of the frustrations associated with finding a new situation. That third party can provide material support and insights that being personally involved in a situation can't. Speaking as a third party, my company, Bespoke Résumé, is conducting a discrete search on behalf of an employed executive. A follow-up with the recipient of the cover letter and résumé we created for him unearthed information that caused us and our client to review and amend our strategy and tactics.

We understand the frustration that executives feel about documenting what they have to offer. The cover letters and résumés we create for them capture in writing what they know intuitively about themselves and we communicate that knowledge to those with a need to know. We apply our unique perspective to every aspect of a search for a new situation.

Each opinion about job search derives from someone's trials and errors--or should. It pays to be aware of those opinions. Extract what works best from several, but don't succumb to the temptation to follow one slavishly while discarding the rest. In every case, the circumstances surrounding winning the prize will be the final arbiter when it comes to determining which opinions applied and which ones didn't.

For more information about Bespoke Résumé, please click on http://ca.linkedin.com/in/neilmorris.

Brickbats or bouquets gratefully accepted at fneilm@sympatico.ca.

Dave Opton said...


Appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

I think all of us have been on the other side of the desk long enoough to know that there is no "formula" or "one size fits all" solution to the job search process.

Obviously if there were, everyone would do it that way.

For good or for ill, everyone is unique which means what is right or works for one person may or may not turn out well for someone else.

The subjectivity of the process both in terms of those who are looking and those who are the potential employers is part of both the frustration and the challenge.

Anonymous said...


Your last sentence is problematic and is the reason people, ie the RIGHT people are not getting jobs. Whoever is responsible for hiring MUST know what they need and MOST CERTAINLY MUST take time to listen and learn what I am selling. They need to think about the LOST OPPORTUNITY (and profit) when the RIGHT PEOPLE are not hired. There must be a open-minded hiring process and not one for the convenience of making the process easy (whatever process many have is absolutely OFF MARK) - no nanosecond review of resumes nor ridiculous list of "MUST HAVES" that can NEVER be the guarantee of success nor selection/elimination only by the "keyword search". POTENTIAL and FUTURE performance will always be an unknown yet to be proven. I have seen total incompetence and inability to deliver while the resumes were 'stellar' (that person drove the company into bankruptcy!) - there is way too much BS going on out there especially as you go up the ladder.

Dave Opton said...

If one were to list all the things that need fixing in terms of some of the actions and/or decisions that are made during the hiring process, I am not sure they would be sufficient space (even electronically) to write it all down.

Over the years I have seen many of the types of things you have commented on and I certainly am not putting up such actions for any awards.

On the other side of it, however, I have also seen many instances where the process and those running it were both thoughtful, and really have thought through what they wanted. Just doesn't happen as often as all of us would like.

What I am saying, however, is that when you are selling this product called "me" you need to be communicating with your potential "buyer" in a way that they are "comfortable" even if some of what makes up their "comfort zone" isn't all that relevent to their objective.

That the process isn't perfect is certainly a fact, but it is also a fact that as a candidate we either adapt to the process or risk losing an opportunity to show them that we are their best solution.