Friday, May 29, 2009

Don’t get “ism’d” away from your goals!

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t continue hearing about society’s ills defined by terms ending in “ism.” Those being, ageism, racism, classism, sexism, and any other “ism’s” used to label discriminatory behavior. Sure there are plenty of laws attempting to prevent problems from arising due to stereotyping, but it can be very subtle and subjective personal attitudes that slip by. Perhaps these will always be around to some extent, but perpetuating them through one’s own negative self-concept is certainly not the way to enjoy life. Obviously, as evidenced by recent shifts in our own political, business and social environment, much progress has been made throughout modern society. However, as with anything of this nature, there is always room for improvement!

What I find most disturbing while working with my career coaching clients, is that many women of a certain age, view any challenge encountered in the job market as a reflection of their number of gray hairs or wrinkles. While, that may occasionally be true, what I’ve noticed is that they themselves are far more focused on that possibility than any other reasonable person would be… I don’t mean to dismiss their concerns, but what I am referring to is the aura of self-doubt and under-estimation of their potential that comes across during interpersonal exchanges.

While volunteering as resume reviewer at a job fair recently, I met several women who seemed to have lopsided posture due to carrying around some enormous chips on their shoulders. One lady in particular, had such a negative vibe going, I almost started to believe her claims that no one would be interested in hiring her due to her age. Ironically, had she not pointed it out, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to estimate her age. She and several others had convinced themselves that despite having appropriate experience, qualifications, education, etc., in their industries, they were out of options because all of the 20-30 year olds were more appealing candidates.

I’ve also seen this topic raised repeatedly in various articles and news stories. A consistent theme permeates this phenomenon – which is the perception of some type of disadvantage being used as a way to excuse or place blame on unrelated factors. What really needs to happen is for older women or any other demographic to eliminate irrelevant thought patterns from their mindset. Doing this will enable them to remain confident in their abilities, competence and attributes needed to portray themselves positively.

Using a few sports figures to illustrate the point, imagine Michael Jordon, Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods - three ideal examples of pure athleticism and talent. In Jordan’s case, it seems ridiculous to envision him entering a game without the objective of beating the opponent. Moving to Armstrong, how many Tour de France wins would he have achieved if he let his health or age stand in the way? Woods, from the start was one of the most unlikely golf legends based some traditions and old-fashioned thinking in that sport. Today, it’s hard to remember how dull and uninteresting many people found golf to be before his arrival on the scene. Watching any of these athletes in action is nothing short of edge-of-your-seat excitement, as their passion, determination and skill shines through. Characteristics they all share are: success driven by confidence, persistence, and of course TALENT!

As an aspiring snowboarder, I’ve noticed that when I “picture” myself getting better and more comfortable, I am less likely fall or get stuck. As a non-athletic, self-proclaimed klutz, my earlier attempts at this sport had the opposite results. Every thought that passed through my head was about not falling, not going too fast or too slow, or how uncoordinated I must have looked. Sub-consciously, those internal ideas determined my outcome – which was plenty of falling, going so slow that I had to remove my board and skate, causing even more falls, and of course not making progress to become more advanced.

Regardless of their background, job seekers in this market are indeed faced with steep slopes, icy conditions and many unique and unpredictable obstacles. Like me on a snowboard, they can choose to slide down on their rear as a human avalanche or build their confidence to make it down in style. Attitude and mindset can make all of the difference in reaching one’s goals.

TalentTalks, focuses on providing clients with unparalleled, distinctive talent management expertise in all areas of career management and human resource & organization development functionality – leading to individual and organization success.

Friday, May 15, 2009

TMI, advice, opinions & other confusion for job seekers

These days, there may seem to be a shortage of jobs, but absolutely no shortage of information on how to get one! Recently, I’ve noticed an influx of experts touting all sorts of solutions for job seekers. Various sources of advice label themselves with clever and mysterious sounding titles such as maven, guru, evangelist, and so on…

What stands out is how abundant and contradictory all of their information has become. The phrase “TMI” comes to mind as in “too much information” for when you cringe while hearing something unnecessary, inappropriate and uncomfortable. Likewise, the saying “opinions are like _____, everyone has one and they all stink!” also seems fitting to describe this phenomenon.

For example, many articles, blogs, websites and newsletters cover tips for using job boards, how many pages a resume should be, having a supplemental version of a resume, using social media networking etc. Here are a few selected points I’ve gathered to illustrate the conundrum facing job seekers:

Using online job boards is one of the most effective ways to get a job
Don’t bother with job boards - no one gets hired that way any more

Post your resume as many places as possible for maximum exposure with recruiters
Control where you post your resume, don’t post to the main job boards

Job seekers must identify and work with recruiters for their industry
Recruiters can’t be trusted and only serve their clients, not job seekers

Professionals should have a 1-2 page resume
With significant experience or expertise, 3-4 pages is the appropriate resume length
Keep your resume to one page maximum

Everyone should have a supplemental version of their resume for networking
If your resume is effective, you don’t need an extra piece of paper for special events

Most people get jobs through networking
Traditional methods help more people find jobs than networking

Creating an “elevator pitch” is essential for job seekers
Job seekers should stop using elevator pitches and start using “solution” speeches

If you are not using twitter, you are missing out
Twitter is a waste of time

Your facebook page will only hurt you in your job seekers
Facebook can be a great way to share information about your job search

LinkedIn is the best professional networking tool and should be used by all job seekers
The jury is still out on whether LinkedIn is a valuable connector for job seekers and employers

With so much free information out there, job seekers are able to prepare and conduct successful job searches all by themselves
Job seekers should seek professional expertise to ensure an effective job search

Obviously, these samples have been paraphrased and taken out of context, but they are actual representations of available information. So, what does it all mean? Which version of the opinion(s) does one believe?

Well, my take on this is that it depends… Sure, that is a weak answer, but really truth can be found in most of the above statements. Each person is unique and has circumstances that might make one idea effective today, while a month from now the opposite would be a better option.

Bottom line, my suggestion is that job seekers keep informed about the rapidly changing job market and make decisions based on what works for them. If results aren’t coming quick enough it might make sense to invest in a new strategy and continue to refine it until the right blend is in place.

TalentTalks helps individuals and groups optimize their talent. Our talent coaching consists of personalized support, professional branding, techniques and strategies to make job seekers stand out from the competition and maximize their return on investment.

As a job seeker in these competitive times, can you afford not to invest in your talent? Remember, most job search expenses are tax deductible. Consult your tax preparer, financial advisor, CPA or the IRS for more information.

Creating a Voice for Talent
Career Services, Professional Communications, HR & OD Consulting

Friday, May 8, 2009

Judging Talent by Watching American Idol

While watching American Idol this week, I noticed a distinct difference between two performances... Obviously, the main goal of that show is to identify talent, however just like most aspects of life there are many subjective factors at play. All of the contestants at this final stage are pretty solid singers, though some are better than others at performing. And of course, song choice is crucial to survival each week!

An interesting concept to me as I’ve watched pieces of each season is whether or not the winner is able to sustain the momentum gained from American Idol exposure for a long musical career. There have been quite a few top contenders that went on to achieve successful careers despite not winning. Yet at least a few of the actual winners have rarely been heard from since their season ended. I’m not sure what makes the difference for that to happen. Is it their talent, effort, marketability or some other factors?

Either way, what was most intriguing to me this week was the contrast between Paula Abdul’s performance and No Doubt’s performance. To summarize how this went, Paula came out through a stage stairway lined with dancers, lighting, fog and other flashy “distractions.” Her vocals sounded recorded, however, I’m no expert and don’t have familiarity with her new song to know for sure. One thing that seemed odd was that she was never filmed close up through the entire performance as she swirled about, being handed from one dancer to another. Rather than this performance being memorable or original, it looked more like an imitation of Britney Spears, sequins, cleavage, headset and all…

Next, No Doubt came on to perform one of their more recognizable hits. Immediately, it was obvious that Gwen Stephani was in fact SINGING!!! One reason this was noticeable was that her energy and active performance style caused her to sound almost out of breath a couple of times. Rather than feeling disappointment over that, I was actually impressed. As a singer and performer doing that for a living, Gwen was able to actually legitimately entertain despite a few small flaws.

Now, tying this into a real world - rather than television example… Is talent about flash, fog and fancy footwork or is it about taking risks, doing your best, giving it your all and not being afraid to show the real thing? If I was a judge of talent between those two performances, no doubt about it, I would vote for No Doubt. Sorry Paula, as Simon might say “that performance wasn’t good enough to keep you in the competition.”

What does your professional “brand” say about you? Are you truly talented or are you putting on a show? Do you want to be known for singing along to the music or taking control of the music? Our careers in many ways are like reality shows. Performance is being judged constantly no matter what field you we are in.

Creating a Voice for Talent
Career Services - Professional Communications - HR & OD Consulting

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

social media networking for job seekers

As I meet new clients, I’m continuously struck with how complex and overwhelming the social media environment has become for many people. Whenever I attend industry events or other similar gatherings where business cards are exchanged, one of the questions routinely asked is “are you on LinkedIn?” Well, many times new acquaintances are actively using LI as well as other similar venues. However, in the past two months, I have invited at least a dozen or so new people to join my LinkedIn network only to discover that I just became their first connection! I found this to be very surprising and wondered why that was the case…

In this day and age where there is no such thing as job security, one can’t afford not to maintain an active professional network. Competition is tough and even though the media portrays a dismal economic outlook, there are jobs available. The main difference now is that employers are able to be much more discreet and discerning about how and when they identify new talent. That makes networking even more valuable to those looking for new opportunities.

In the HR arena, there are always articles, studies, surveys, etc., covering the concept of generational gaps in the workforce. Personally, I tend to find the topic overblown and a rather dull form of stereo-typing. One specific element that these sources discuss is the differences in technology use between generations. On that single aspect, I’m not convinced that one’s age or demographics determines the likelihood of participating in social media networking. I do notice that personal networking i.e. myspace, facebook, blogging, etc., have grown quite popular, beyond their original core youth audience. In fact it is rare to come across someone yet to be using at least one form of online media with their contacts.

LinkedIn and Twitter are steadily gaining notoriety in the employment category, due to the extensive population of recruiters and hiring authorities using them as a talent acquisition venue. Based on that factor alone, it is hard to imagine anyone choosing to ignore this so-called “fad.” Statistics suggest that relationship-based hiring methods continue to be more successful and cost-effective for employers. For job seekers, networking results in a much more fruitful and productive job search and creates a better return on investment than relying on other traditional techniques. Yet still there is some resistance by many to embrace this as a viable option…

Maybe for some it is the fear of the unknown or maybe they just haven’t found the social media networking tools personally useful – either way, the following is a list of tips that might help people gain the most advantage from their career-oriented social media networking experiences.

1) Build a complete & professional profile
2) Obtain / exchange solid & meaningful professional recommendations
3) Join & become an active participant in affinity groups for your industry
4) Use the forum for its intended purpose – don’t spam members
5) Engage in discussions, debates, etc., showing respect for others
6) Keep current & focused on building your professional “brand”

Creating a Voice for Talent
Career Services Professional Communications HR & OD Consulting