Job Search: What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You

The old saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” has been debunked so much that I’m not sure anyone really believes it anymore. However, some job seekers I’ve met do seem to adopt that concept–unconsciously, if nothing else. That attitude can have a painful effect on your job search.

3 Things You Might not Know but Should

  • Is the target company facing a daunting challenge that could negatively affect you if you were hired? For example, is it a likely target for a hostile takeover or otherwise a probable candidate for a merger/acquisition that could result in elimination of the job you had just landed? Certainty might not be achievable with the available information, but it’s up to you to do your due diligence carefully and sniff out such possibilities as best you can.
  • Does the target company have a reputation for being tough on its employees, particularly at the level and/or in the type of role you are pursuing? A company can be challenging to work for and still be largely satisfying and rewarding. However, if it maintains a potentially toxic work environment or spits employees out like a revolving door, you might want to think carefully before seriously considering accepting an offer from it.
  • Is the company operating in an industry (or segment of an industry) that’s perched on the slippery slope of declining value? As examples, just look at what happened in the video recording industry with Betamax vs. VHS and later with DVDs vs. tape recording methods. Absolute accuracy in predicting the outcome of apparent trends probably won’t happen, but you might be able to get a good sense of what could realistically happen and determine if that’s encouraging or discouraging in your situation.

Job Search Risks You Might Decide to Take

As I mentioned above, you might find out as much as possible about a situation with your target company and go either way in deciding whether it makes good sense for you to move ahead. Sometimes the risk-versus-reward outlook suggests that it’s worth pursuing; sometimes not. As long as you’ve taken all the wise precautions you can, that’s really the best you can do to minimize your risk and maximize your potential reward.

What might some of the risks be? For starters, you could leave a solid but unfulfilling job to take one that evaporates unexpectedly and leaves you stranded. Or you might find that the person who hired you and with whom you had a good rapport will fall victim to a management shift that boots him or her out in the cold and leaves you facing the possibility of working for a not-so-great new boss–if he/she doesn’t decide to find a way to shove you out the door as well.

I sometimes think the only guarantee is the fact that there are no guarantees! That certainly applies in the job search setting, making it something of a “buyer beware” situation. The better prepared you are for the most likely eventualities, the better you’ll probably end up once the dust settles.


Interviews You Don’t Want

If you’re in or contemplating a serious job search, you might find it hard to imagine that you could have an opportunity for interviews you don’t want–or interviews for jobs you realize you don’t want. However, stranger things have happened.

Interviews You Don’t Want

Sometimes a situation is doomed from the outset, but you don’t always know it ahead of time. However, there are some signals you can watch for that might suggest a “pass on this one” would be smart. For instance, if you learn that the company is in the midst of a potentially major change (possible merger or acquisition, etc.), that might not be the best time for interviewing there. By the same token, if some other kind of upheaval is going on (such as the abrupt departure of one or more key people on the executive team), you might want to hold off on interviewing with that organization.

You can, of course, decide the risk is worth taking because the potential payoff outweighs it. Only you can decide if you want to move forward to the interview in such a situation. One sample scenario would be if you’ll have the chance to interview with an influential person that could be a good future contact.

Interviews for Jobs You Don’t Want

Although it might be unlikely that you’ll go to multiple job interviews where you have awareness of high risk in advance, it’s not uncommon to go into one thinking you’re genuinely interested in the position and realizing partway through that it’s not a good fit for you–either the job itself or the company or both. What do you do in a case like that?

As others have said before me, you don’t necessarily want to bail from that interview prematurely, which could leave a bad impression on (burn bridges with) someone who could later be in a position to help or hurt your career. At the same time, you probably shouldn’t go full-speed-ahead with a high level of enthusiasm if you already know you wouldn’t accept an offer if they made one. You’ll want to see the interview through to a polite conclusion and, if appropriate, indicate that although you appreciate the time spent, you’ve realized you and the position aren’t a good fit right now.

Recently I read an article titled “How to Decline a Job Interview and Make It a Win/Win” that suggested ways you can also make a really favorable impression by offering information about potential candidates who might be a good fit (if you know one) or indicating other things you would be happy to do that might be helpful to the interviewer and his/her company. That’s certainly something to think about. It would undoubtedly make you more memorable to the interviewer after the interview is over and done.

A Final Word

Of course, this is all assuming you’ve done your due diligence before signing up for any interviews that might put you on the spot. If you have, you should at least minimize the likelihood of having it happen.


Job Search is a Team Sport

Having just about completed a massive (coast-to-coast) relocation of home and business, I learned a valuable lesson that job seekers can (and should) apply to their next job search. With few–maybe no–exceptions, you can’t tackle a huge project alone and expect to complete it successfully on all fronts. Major projects require teamwork, and even then, they can be challenging.

Job Search a Team Sport?

You might quibble about my labeling job search as a sport. Would it help if I put “sport” in quotes? Seriously, a team sport is one that (by definition) involves more than one player. Usually that means there’s a captain–a leader–who gives the team a focus and helps them work together to achieve a common goal. That might mean winning a lot of games in whatever the sport is or at least making a strong effort to do well and to keep improving until they achieve a goal they’ve set for themselves.

That concept works for me just as well in terms of a job search. You could consider yourself the captain of your job search team, the person with a clear sense of the goal (a new job) and an awareness of at least some of the challenges that could lie in store for you before you reach that goal. But a captain isn’t much good without a solid team behind him or her. A captain can’t cover all the positions required to win.

Who Needs to Be on Your Team?

Some people should be with you on your job search from start to finish. They might be family members, close friends, respected colleagues, or some other category. The important point is that they need to have a strong desire to see you succeed in finding your next great job, either because they have a vested interest in the outcome or because they get a lot of satisfaction from helping someone achieve a key goal–or both. They should be people whose opinion you value and respect, not someone who might work harder on his or her personal axe to grind than on your success.

At times, though, you’ll want a person on your team who doesn’t have to be there for the long haul. That can include people whose expertise in a particular area presents a potentially strong value for your job search. You might consult such a person on a short-term basis, get the help you need, and let them go with gratitude for their contribution.

With my long-distance move, I had a lot of helpers, and I couldn’t have done it without them–such as the amazing real estate agent who sold our home in California at a good price, the agent in Massachusetts she connected me with (who found us the wonderful home we now live in), the resourceful handyman that second agent recommended, and the friendly neighbors who put me in touch with top-notch service providers in our area for essential needs such as plumbing work and irrigation systems.

Your job search is arguably one of the most important activities you’ll engage in, professionally speaking. Make sure you view it as a team sport and line up the players you really need to get you where you want to go.


Don’t Be a Job Search “Idiot”!

If you’ve never made any dumb or slightly silly mistakes in a job search, congratulations! On the other hand, an occasional misstep is probably not the kiss of death unless it’s seriously stupid.

Look at it this way, though: If you don’t put your best foot forward when you’re planning and conducting a job search, why should a potential employer assume that you won’t do something equally bad as an employee? To those employers, you are–in large part–the person you present to them in your job search interactions: initial contact, interview process, follow-through and follow-up, and so on.

There is no excuse I can think of for screwing up a job search because you didn’t seriously think through and put the key steps of your search into action appropriately. (Unless maybe it’s something as major as a death in the family or other traumatic event.) For instance, if you can’t at least try to put yourself in the shoes of the employers and do whatever you can to make it easy for them to consider you as a viable candidate, what makes you think they’ll want to bother doing that?

Whether the economy and job search market are good, bad or somewhere in between, you owe it to yourself and to the prospective employer (as well as anyone else your job search directly affects) to make sure you’re not behaving like a job search “idiot”! Act like a professional in all your dealings with the people you make contact with (or are contacted by). But don’t be afraid to cut loose those who are bent on wasting your time for their own benefit. You don’t owe them anything!

Because this will be my last post for a while (we’re moving across the country in less than a week), I’m not going to make it a long one. However, I do strongly encourage you to read the blog post from Nick Corcodillos (Ask the Headhunter) that prompted me to write on this topic today. You can find his post on his Ask The Headhunter blog. It’s really an eye-opener.

Here’s hoping you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.


Career Promotions: Prepare-Secure-Perform

Probably not many people would reject the idea of advancing along their career path by achieving promotions. Most of us would probably consider it a good thing–a sign that we’re growing and progressing professionally, not to mention (we hope) financially.

The process involved in preparing for and securing a promotion, as well as performing in the new role after you land it, isn’t overly complicated on the face of it but can have a number of nuances and challenges, depending on your situation. While reams can be written on this subject (and have been), I’d like to share a few tips and hints that you might find useful in your pursuit of a career promotion.

Career Promotions: Preparation

  • Make sure you’re really ready to move up in your organization. It’s fine to visualize yourself in the desired role, but you need to be able to back that up with substance. Wishful thinking isn’t enough!
  • Nurture your network (internal as well as external) to garner as much support as you can for your upward move. If you don’t already have a functioning internal network, moving up will be more of an uphill battle than you want to face.
  • Understand how office politics work and ensure that you’re prepared for that. You might find those politics distasteful, but if they’re a fact of life, you’d better know how to work within or around them.

Career Promotions: Securing One

  • Once you’ve done your homework (the preparation), begin keeping an eye out for potential promotions to pursue. Listen and observe carefully to gather possibly useful information that might not be readily apparent to a casual onlooker.
  • Avoid assuming that because you’re interested in a particular promotion, the people in power will somehow know that without your needing to do anything more to communicate your interest.
  • Communicate in the appropriate way and time with influencers in your network to sound them out for advice and possible contacts with promotion decision-makers who are not in your network.

Career Promotions: Performance

Congratulations! You’ve landed that sought-after promotion, and you’re on Cloud 9!

Okay, now come back to earth for a moment. If you get a honeymoon period in the new job, it might not last very long. If the situation is time-sensitive for any reason, there might not be a honeymoon period at all. So what’s your next step?

Author Elizabeth Grace Saunders offers some good suggestions about the post-promotion phase, in her article, “3 Counterintuitive Things You Should Do After You Get a Promotion.”

  1. Define what you’re not going to do anymore. You probably need to let go of or delegate some of your former duties to take on the new ones.
  2. Depend on other people more. You need a good support team–not only inside the company but in your personal life as well–to function at peak effectiveness.
  3. Cling to your core priorities. That includes more sleep, more exercise (or maintaining what you’ve been doing), and more time for relaxing with family and friends.

P.S. On a personal note, my planned move from California to Massachusetts is in its final phase now. We’ve bought a place there and sold our place in California. The scheduled move-out date is May 23, but we won’t hit the road for our cross-country trek until May 26 to avoid the Memorial Day weekend traffic. Anticipated arrival in Massachusetts is around June 2 or 3. I will be offline for probably a few weeks around the time of the move, although I hope to have at least limited email access.


Company Loyalty–How Much Do You “Owe” Them?

The title of this post is somewhat of a trick question. When a company pays your salary, as agreed when you took the job, you probably do owe them something in return. In other words, in most cases you should deliver whatever you agreed to do in exchange for that salary.

On the other hand, what if the company expects actions that are, for example, unethical or borderline illegal? Then you’re looking at possible consequences and risks that you didn’t agree to at the outset. Such a situation merits at least some serious thought on your part and might require you to take steps that are difficult to face.

Here’s hoping you never have a job situation that puts you in that kind of spot, but we’ve probably all heard or read news reports about just such occurrences. How would you handle it if it happened to you?

Unacceptable Job Performance Demands

Ultimately, you’ll have to determine whether a demand is so unacceptable that you need to find another position. Before you reach that point, however, it would be wise to evaluate the situation carefully. For instance, can you identify possible ways to work things out so that you don’t have to accede to unacceptable job performance demands?

If you’ve done your best to work through a troublesome issue and gotten nowhere, that might be the time to start seriously looking for options outside the company–as discreetly as possible. In the meantime, you’ll want to avoid “stirring the pot” if you can, so you don’t raise a red flag in the minds of management about your plan to jump ship the moment you find a better job offer.

Among other things, be very careful about talking to anyone within the company–even someone you think you can trust. Whether or not the person is on the level and means to treat your comments as confidential, you can’t bank on that and don’t want to put your job at risk unnecessarily.

Company Loyalty Not a 2-Way Street

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. As far as I know, no company gives you an open-ended job guarantee or promises you they’ll give you ample notice if they decide they need or want to dispense with your services.

Maybe the best companies today do care about their employees and make a point of treating them fairly, partly because they know it’s the best way to continue attracting top performers; but those are probably the exception rather than the rule. Many companies that aren’t necessarily shady or otherwise undesirable don’t feel a real sense of loyalty to employees. As Tom Hanks’ character says in “You’ve Got Mail”: “It’s not personal; it’s business.”

When they need to trim expenses or change directions for the business in some way that leaves you on the outside, you’re expendable. In most cases, they don’t even need to give you any warning. Not only that, but if you give them the traditional two-weeks’ notice when you’re the one initiating a separation, they can just as easily walk you right out the door with no time to do more than (maybe) grab your personal effects.

So a word to the wise: Be smart about the subject of company loyalty. Do what you knowingly agreed to do and make plans to leave if the job situation takes an unexpected turn for the worst. You “owe” that to yourself.

P.S. This will be my last blog post for the next few weeks, as I’m in the midst of getting ready to make a cross-country move. I’ll get back to you when I can.


Long-Term Unemployment Challenges

I’ve had a few clients over the years that have gotten caught up in the Never-Never Land of long-term unemployment, and to say that it’s stressful and disturbing for them is a gross understatement. While I doubt a “magic bullet” exists that will fix the problem effortlessly, I do believe some pointers and potentially hopeful signs can be found to encourage those job seekers.

Companies that Discriminate Against Long-Term Unemployed

We’ve probably all heard about companies that discriminate against people who have been out of work for months, even years. Some of that discrimination is subtle, while some of it (unbelievably, to me) is blatant. I’ve even seen job postings that specifically exclude people who’ve been unemployed for an extended period. It’s often included as “must be currently employed” or words to that effect. The justification for doing so always sounds about as lame and self-serving as it can get.

For example, some companies claim that people who’ve been out of work for an extended period might be out of date on necessary skills and be unable to perform at the level of quality the company needs. Yet those same companies are apparently willing to hire people who don’t even have some of the “necessary” skills listed on their resume, just because those individuals are currently employed! In what universe does that attitude make any sense?

To begin with, just because someone has been unemployed for, say 7 months, doesn’t mean his/her skills have somehow atrophied in the meantime and he/she is somehow therefore a below-par candidate. Also, it shouldn’t take more than a few well-chosen questions in a submission form to get an idea of whether the person’s skills would be up to the task.

Just as an example of what’s “out there” on this subject, I found the following statement in a 2012 article titled “Discrimination Against the Unemployed“: “When Scott Pelley [of CBS] and his team of producers set out to profile Joe Carbone and his Platform to Employment program, they started hearing the same complaint from people who are out of work: if you’ve been unemployed for a year or more, some companies won’t even give you an interview.”

Along the same lines, a 2013 article titled “The Unemployment Bias: The Long-term Unemployed Face Severe Discrimination” states that “Last year I did some work for a large company that decided it would not hire anyone who was unemployed. It would automatically reject any candidate who had been unemployed even for a day.” Seriously?!!!

These short-sighted and narrow-minded corporate views have so many holes in them that I can’t begin to list them all, but here’s one: If the best potential hires are happily employed already and not interested in moving, and those employers won’t even consider equally well-qualified candidates who are out of work, how are those companies going to hire ANY good employees? That being said, how long can the companies continue in business before they reach a quality and customer-satisfaction level that hits their bottom line hard?

Companies that Might Hire Long-Term Unemployed

In early 2014, an event occurred that was intended to improve the situation over the long term. An article titled “300 companies pledge to help long-term unemployed” was one of several published regarding a campaign by President Obama to encourage companies to open up opportunities for individuals affected by long-term unemployment challenges. As the article noted, “More than 300 companies—including 20 of the nation’s 50 largest, such as Apple, Wal-Mart and General Motors—have agreed to reassess their hiring practices at President Obama’s request to make sure they are not biased against Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.”

Of course, pledges to reexamine hiring practices don’t automatically translate into a visible increase in hiring long-term unemployed job seekers. I don’t know if any studies have been done over the past year to evaluate whether any measurable improvement has been happening. However, I did see the following statement in a recent job posting:

“Siemens encourages qualified long-term unemployed individuals to apply for open positions.” The particular position in the posting was for a location in Indiana, but the statement sounds as if it covers the whole corporation. This might just be an isolated instance, but at least it strikes a more hopeful note than what I’ve been seeing so far.

What can you do if you’re one of those long-term unemployed individuals? I’m hoping to do some more research and then develop a blog post that offers a constructive outlook on this subject.


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