Your Career and the Search for Talent

You might have heard the term “talent wars” or something similar, which generally refers to companies competing for top talent even when a lot of job seekers are unemployed (and some have been for an extended period).

If you’ve been looking for a new job or trying to move out/up from your current job for a while, this whole concept of a talent shortage might seem almost laughable–except that no job seeker I know is laughing about it.

Talent Shortage is a Matter of Perspective

To some extent, the feeling seems to be that companies aren’t doing enough–or enough of the right things–to find the employee talent they desperately need.

According to a recent article by Mike Prokopeak in Talent Magazine, “Luring the Best Talent,” companies’ management teams are lagging behind in understanding the need to change their talent management practices because they just don’t get the extent of the challenge.

Prokopeak’s article quotes an executive VP at ManpowerGroup as saying, “They’re in denial because they think their company brand is strong enough that people will want to work there….A lot of people with high demand skills don’t want to work in the environments we’ve created.”

But Job Seekers Might Contribute to the Problem

On the other hand, you as a job seeker might be a part of the problem. Say what? Of course you’re working hard at your job search! (You are, aren’t you?) You’d love to put your talents to work at the right company and are doing everything you can to make that happen.

Not according to some experts. At least a few of them (including Nick Corcodillos of Ask The Headhunter) maintain that if you’re just following the tried-and-true methods, such as submitting your hopefully-great resume to as many potential jobs as you can, you’re really missing the point.

Why is that? For starters, because it’s the easy way to conduct a job search but at the same time maybe one of the least likely methods to actually produce solid job opportunities that can lead to job offers. You almost certainly will face significantly more competition that way, and it’s harder to impress employers with your value (stand out from the crowd).

Here’s Corcodillos’ take on the situation:
“You write your resume only after you’ve talked to the hiring manager. The resume comes last. It’s not your ‘marketing piece’ and it doesn’t ‘introduce you.’ You introduce you….everyone should create their own because the point is, each is and must be unique and tailored to a single employer….it’s an enormous amount of work.”

Caveat: As a professional resume writer, I could be said to have an axe to grind if I disagree with Corcodillos, but I don’t–at least, not exactly. What he wants, I think, is for every job seeker to make this kind of effort every time he/she looks for a new position. Realistically, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

However, I do agree that you need to put a fair amount of real thought and effort into your job search campaign–and it is (or should be) a campaign, not just a one-off sending out of resumes here, there and everywhere. That includes networking your way into companies you’d like to work for, now or at some point in the future.

As the saying goes, “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.” If that means sticking your neck out now and then, going outside your comfort zone, so be it.


Do Your Leaders Do What They Promise? Do You?

Trust is a critical element of any meaningful relationship. That’s just as true in the business world as elsewhere. If your leaders make promises they don’t keep–once–you might give them the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, if that behavior looks like becoming a pattern, trust goes out the window. You no longer have a trust-based relationship.

True Leadership: It’s “Walking the Talk”

Promises are easy to make, and for too many “leaders,” they’re just as easy to break in the name of business expediency. Whether it’s a promise to promote you to a more responsible, career-enriching position or something else, if your boss promises it and then doesn’t deliver, you’ll naturally start to wonder if you can believe and count on anything he or she says. That’s a shortcut to a dysfunctional work relationship that doesn’t produce good results for you or anyone else.

It isn’t necessarily illegal to make promises that aren’t kept, but it is unethical if it’s done knowingly. In other words, if your boss assures you that your job is safe, even though a layoff is coming, the situation could still end with you facing job loss. Either your boss was manipulating you to achieve a specific outcome–such as convincing you to continue putting hard work into a critical project (deliberate deception)–or he/she meant well but ultimately had less than full control over the details of the layoff (inadvertent promise-breaking).

Simon Sinek (of Start With Why) believes that “many in leadership positions talk about doing what’s right. But only the true leaders actually do it.” How many leaders do you know that “walk the talk”?

Are You a Promise-Keeping Leader?

If you manage or supervise a team, do they know they can rely on your word? Even if you’re not yet in a leadership role, you can develop much stronger support and gain solid respect if others on your team are able to trust that you will do what you say you will.

Leaders who advocate one thing in their role as leader and do something contrary to that in their own actions don’t inspire confidence and can actually end up sabotaging the success of their organization. That’s not something you want to chalk up against your name and reputation as a leader. The cost is likely to end up being higher than you want to pay.

I came across a short but inspiring blog post on the subject of walking your talk, from Karin Conway (Organic Growth Coach), that includes the following:

“I hope this quote inspires you today. I think its [it’s] a good reminder to practice what you preach and live a life of integrity. We can do a lot of ‘stuff’ and never accomplish anything if we are careless in our actions….:

‘It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.’ (philosopher Francis Bacon)”

The Cost of Doing Right

Sometimes sticking to your guns and doing what’s right as a team leader involves a personal or professional cost to you. For instance, if you’re faced with taking a stand against something senior management expects you to do that goes against your strongest sense of right, you might have to decide if it’s worth the risk to keep your promise to your team–up to and including possible loss of your own job. That could end up being a really tough call, but no one said that doing right would always be easy.

Turn Down A Job Interview? Are You Crazy?

If someone told you that you should turn down the opportunity for a job interview–especially if you’ve been out of work for a while–would you think they were crazy?

After all, the whole point is to get interviews so you can land a new job sooner rather than later, right?

Bad Job Interview Prospects

There are times, though, when a potential job interview stands to do more harm than good for your overall job search success. These are just a few of the “bad job interview” situations:

  • Makes you take time off from your current job (if you’re employed) or postpone other job search activities (if you’re not working), without resulting in a meaningful dialogue with the employer because they didn’t give you enough relevant information up front (in other words, holding their cards too close to their vest).
  • Forces you to prematurely reveal information (about salary, etc.)–that is, before the employer offers any solid information to help you evaluate the job opportunity in terms of probable mutual fit.
  • Puts you through the full interview process (possibly with multiple interviewers) for a position that sometimes ends up going to an insider (a candidate the hiring manager has had in mind from the start).

When to Turn Down a Job Interview

Having a bad feeling about a company would be a good starting point for rejecting an interview, although you probably wouldn’t have applied in the first place if you got such a feeling initially.

If a prospective employer demands a lot of information from you before scheduling an interview and it’s information you don’t want to reveal that soon–such as providing your references or (heaven forbid!) Social Security number before an interview–you will probably want to pull back from that one.

In fact, whenever the preliminary exchange of information is heavily lopsided in favor of the employer, you could find that an interview would be not only a big waste of time but also a source of aggravation and frustration. Do you really need that?

Similarly, you might be asked (maybe even required) to jump through multiple hoops before scheduling an interview, including agreeing to travel to a distant location on your own dollar. In such situations, you should be evaluating whether the interview and the job (if it gets that far) are worth the risk and the effort you are expected to make.

Job Interview Turn-Down Advice

Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos never minces words, and here’s what he had to say in response to an inquiry from a reader:

“If you don’t get the information you need, I wouldn’t go to the interview. Every job seeker needs to draw a line somewhere. Just bear in mind that the company may put a big X on your file and never consider you again. On the other hand, you may not want to reconsider them any time soon yourself.” [Note: The reader opted to turn down the interview request.]

Ultimately, you’re the one who has to make the decision about whether or not to pursue the interview: weigh the pros and cons as objectively as you can and make the wisest choice for your situation.

Are You a Creative Employee?

If you think you aren’t a creative employee, you might want to think again. And if you aren’t being creative in some way, can you change that?

The tendency is to think of creative employees in terms of fields such as graphic arts, marketing communications, and such–in other words, either visual or written creativity that’s an essential aspect of the individual’s job. Those of you who don’t work in such fields might be convinced that you’re not a creative employee. Not so fast, though. Maybe there’s more to it than that.

What Marks You as a Creative Employee?

Coming up with ideas for how to do something better and faster than it’s been done before could be considered evidence of creativity–that is, you might engage in creative thinking that gets out of the every-day rut and looks at a situation differently than other employees do. More than once over the years since I started creating resumes, I’ve had a client tell me he or she had been able to solve difficult problems that others had attempted and failed to do. Those clients went on to give me concrete examples of situations where that had happened.

Look at your job performance and see if you can point to instances where you tackled something that had been tried before without success and got it to work well. It doesn’t need to be of earthshaking importance to qualify you as a creative employee. By the same token, if something hasn’t been tried before but should have been, you might be the one who sees possibilities and opportunities that have previously been overlooked.

Can You Change a “Lack” of Creativity?

If you really feel you’re not a creative employee, the odds are still pretty good that you can change that. Start by changing your concept of creativity. As I indicated above, opening up your thinking to new possibilities can lead to outcomes that benefit your company in a variety of ways. As far as the company is concerned, that makes you a creative employee–and a potentially very valuable one.

A recent article by Ashlie Turley, titled “Building a Work Environment That Inspires Creativity,” states that “Creativity impacts three aspects of business in particular. These aspects – efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability – also happen to be the areas of business that leaders are usually most concerned about.” I believe you can stretch yourself as an employee, if you’re not already contributing creatively to those critical business areas. Encourage yourself to question the status quo in your own mind first and then see if you can identify ways to suggest improvements that your employer will find worth considering.

More than likely, the only thing stopping you from functioning as a creative employee is your own self-doubt or hesitation. Once you start challenging that self-imposed limitation, you might be surprised at how much of a creative employee you can be.

By the way, you can demonstrate creativity before you even start a new job. Look at your job search with a fresh approach and see if you can come up with better ways of managing it. Also, be prepared to demonstrate creative thinking when you prepare for and engage in job interviews. You might give your interviewer a pleasant surprise.

Lying or Fudging on Resumes–Rotten Idea

The subject of lying or exaggerating on resumes just keeps coming up! It amazes me how many people–at least some of whom seem otherwise intelligent–make the lousy decision to falsify information in their resumes (falsify is a euphemism for lying, but sounding weaker doesn’t make it better).

With all the publicity there is from time to time about perpetrators getting caught, I would think people would hesitate to take the risk, even if ethical considerations didn’t weigh with them. The consequences of lying on your resume (or in some cases just fudging the truth a bit) can range from getting fired and escorted out to the door to something as serious as prison sentences.

Resume Lying: Why Not?

Setting aside the ethical issues (I’m a firm believer in not claiming things that aren’t true), why is lying on your resume a really rotten idea? After all, some people seem to get away with it.

To start with, you have to remember what lies you told to whom, about what, when, ad nauseum. It’s too easy to get tripped up somewhere down the road, and that puts a constant strain on you. There’s always the risk that someone will catch on to the fact that some of your info doesn’t add up, seems too good to be true or otherwise raises a red flag.

You are never safe from exposure. Never. Sometimes people get away with lying on their resume for years, well into their career, before it comes back to bite them. Among other things, that means they have more to lose than they might have earlier in their career. Also they face the daunting prospect of starting over from scratch at a later stage in their lives–seldom an easy task.

Perhaps most important: Once you are exposed as a liar, your word becomes basically meaningless. You have destroyed the trust that others have placed in you, and betrayal of trust is extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to regain.

So Why Lie or Fudge on Your Resume?

Sometimes people do it because they become desperate. They’ve been searching for a new job for a long time without success, and they feel as if they need to do something to improve their odds. As we know today, protracted job searches are no longer a rarity, and well-qualified job seekers are being ignored or rejected by the employers they submit their resumes to.

Sometimes you might think that a little fudging isn’t a big deal. Maybe you write a great paragraph in your resume about a project you worked on and make it sound as if it was a long, demanding activity–when it actually lasted only a week or two. Sure, you did the work, and maybe you made a useful contribution in that short time, but is that really what the employer is looking for if the posting specifies someone with five years of experience in that kind of activity?

“Lots of people are doing it” (some people say, “Everyone is doing it”): My stock response to that statement is, “If lots of people rob banks, does that make it right?” Quantity alone doesn’t justify engaging in an action.

Think about this: If you had to take a lie detector test on the contents of your resume, how comfortable would that be?

Here are a couple of recent articles about lying on resumes. They make for some interesting reading:

Network Your Way to Job Interviews and Offers

To some job seekers, “networking” is almost a dirty word–something they want to avoid like the plague. This isn’t a new thought; we’ve been around this track a few times before. However, in the unpredictable times we live in now, seemingly old methods can become new again, at least in terms of their importance to a successful job search.

Networking: Not Just a Numbers Game

I’ve seen various statistics and pieces of advice that suggest, for instance, that one of the steps you need to take to have successful participation in a networking event is to determine how many people you need or want to meet. If you hustle, you could conceivably meet quite a few people at such an event; but quantity alone won’t win you any prizes in the job search challenge.

To put it another way, you probably don’t want to paper your walls with the business cards you collect at a networking event. The people you meet and the business cards they share with you must have a stronger potential value than the quantity you rack up. By the same token, if your expanded LinkedIn network now numbers in the millions (or even hundreds of thousands), those that are of the greatest probable value to your job search and career success would only represent a miniscule portion of that total.

Networking Skills and Jobs

An article titled “No Networking Skills, No Job,” by Brian O’Connell makes some points well worth considering. To start with, he says that “connecting the dots between trusted contacts and future job opportunities is a big deal for job hunters. Failing that could be a real deal-breaker for career professionals looking for a landing spot….”

O’Connell goes on to quote a 2011 study by Right Management that gives the following statistics: “41% of all job applicants found new positions through networking, and only 2% through a job advertisement, either online or offline.” In addition, he references a 2012 report from ABC News that states “80% of all jobs are found through networking and networking events.”

Networking is Not a Quick Fix

Important as it is to your job search, networking will rarely, if ever, bring you an amazingly wonderful and rapid payoff. As with other job search tools (such as working with recruiters), networking usually only pays off over a longer term and often with incremental results that might not seem wildly impressive at first glance but can produce substantial benefits in the end.

Among other things, that means the sooner you begin a well-thought-out networking plan and the more consistently you work on that plan, the more likely you are to gain the outcome you’re seeking–a new/better job, a more fulfilling career, and so on.