Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Your resume, your age

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: At what age should I change my resume to NOT reflect my age?

A: Your age should never be a key part of your resume - your story should do the work of pitching the position whether you are 24 or 59. But you will never really be able to hide your age from an efficient hirer.

So at any age you should lead with your experience and attitude and passion and value expressed in your resume intro or bio. This should make the case and give the impression that you are everything the hirer wants before they even think about your numerical age.

Then when they do discover your actual age - as they eventually will - you want them say to themselves, "Goodness he's only 24 and he has done all that," or "Wow she sure didn't sound like a 55 year old, but she certainly has what we need and seems to be really on top of what is happening today. We have to talk to her."

Q+A: Enough with networking events already!

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Other than industry gatherings and get togethers especially meant for networking, are there other places I should be going to network?

A: Certainly there are other places than pure networking events, though interestingly almost everywhere that two or three business people are gathered together, networking is also on the agenda.

Here are a couple of suggestions to stimulate your thinking. This week I attended Web2.0 Expo, a trade conference in New York. The principal goal for attendees was to learn what is going on in the industry, attending presentations from industry leaders and picking the brains of the people in the booths about the newest techniques and opportunities. It was a wonderful environment for talking substantively about the business - and incidentally making connections in a group that is deeply interested in the future of the industry. So seek out this kind of thing  even if it's not advertised as a networking event.

For the longer haul, there can be benefit in volunteering at a nonprofit or joining a nonprofit board. Here there is an opportunity to meet people while the attention is focused on the work of the organization. You can get to know someone really well and find common cause  these connections can prove invaluable additions to your network. One of the prime reasons why any C-level executive joins a nonprofit board is for the networking. They may look at several nonprofits and see which ones attract the kind of board members they want to get to know.

The community of your place of worship can be excellent for meeting and bonding with people. I have made good contacts in the PTA of my kids schools. And you should check in with your alum organization and see what they have on offer.

Resumes, Cover notes and Keywords

By Michael Pollock

Resumes and cover notes are the first line of attack for job hunting. Here's how Sonia Jairath, Founder and President of Metierlink, a niche recruiting firm, sees it.

"Your cover note gives you the opportunity to highlight why you're the most relevant person for the job. And it provides the way to structure and focus any further conversation." From Jairath's point of view "A good cover note usually indicates that the resume following it will be a good one. It gives me a sense of their writing and communication skills and shows whether they are passionate about what they do."

"Many people may look at your resume," says Jairath. "Some of them may not have the experience to understand what they are looking at  so your introductory paragraph is really important: it should say who you are and what is your pitch. This is most important in connecting the dots for your reader."

"Definitely get advice on your resume," she advises. "Have another pair of eyes look at it, whether it's a friend, or a coach or a resume writer.'

"If you are going after a C-level position, your presentation has to shift to another level. The selected candidate will be representing the company to the outside  so it needs to not only make a clear statement of accomplishments along with a biography, but your writing and communication skills become even more critical."

Keywords are important in a resume  so Jairath suggests that you be specific. Just saying you are a marketer is too general. Searches are made on terms like Search Specialist, Business Development, Web Analytics, and Social Media. If you are after a strategic position then emphasize your strategic insights over your tactical experience. Some roles do require both production management and strategy, so then you do need to show both, to show that you can roll up your sleeves as well as do the thinking.

Candidates need to be covering all their bases: emailing, being part of social networks and working with a recruiter or hiring person. Join networks where you see there are recruiters and hirers and you will be able to get their announcements when they are looking  go to events and make good connections.

Her final words of advice: Be Proactive.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Job searches are hard

I received this response to the Q+A piece about the value of mass mailing a resume.  I post it here, along with my response, and welcome your thoughts.

I read your response to a woman today on Cynopsis who asked about mass mailing since she's not had much luck trying all things suggested in a job search. Your response was not to and then suggested maybe she wasn't doing x y or z. I got so angry when I read that. Naturally, you assume it must be something she isn't doing. Well, take it from someone else who has exhausted her network, done all that is suggested and is constantly reevaluating what else she can do? Well, after 8 months of hard work and no returns, I'm all out of ideas too. She should send the damn mass mailing and maybe, just maybe something will stick. Keep in mind people are holding onto their jobs with both hands, and companies aren't creating jobs. And for every job are tons qualified applicants. It's not been this bad since the 1930's I believe. For those with jobs, you really don't know how hard it is out here. WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING. So don't assume we aren't.

Here is my response:

Thanks so much for your heartfelt email - I am so sorry my response made you angry.

There is no question that this is a tough environment, but I have seen wonderful things happen when people tweak or focus the way they present themselves.   I had a note from a client last week that said that as a result of our work together  "I was able to see that I have way more interesting skills/experience than what is outlined on my resume."  My intent is to help people who ask for advice, and others who are interested, to think of some alternative ways to tackle this difficult situation.  After all if what they have done so far is not working, perhaps either the problem or the solution can be reframed to lead to a different result.

This alone may not be enough, but this fresh thinking may open up a whole new set of opportunities and perhaps even suggest a different list for that mass mailing.  

I wish you all the very best in your search

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seven Pointers to an effective elevator speech and cover letter

As you go about your job search is critically important that you understand and internalize the value that you provide to an employee or client.

You must understand deep inside yourself what makes you so special at the job you are pursuing. You must have a good sense from your connections and research what a potential employer is looking for. You should know, or be able to intuit, what kind of problems they are likely to have and what problems they are looking to have someone  you hopefully  take care of for them.

You should have moved way past such generic, price-of-entry claims as "on time, on budget" or "I manage teams" or other boilerplate descriptions of what a job entails. These are merely support points, they do not differentiate you in any way. (Except perhaps from the people who write " I am a sloppy worker, my team hates me and my projects are always late.)

You should look into your own career triumphs, large and small and pick three or four that you can describe briefly and vividly. These must be stories that no-one else could tell, that encapsulate the value and passion that you and you alone provide.

Once you have all this deep inside you, you will be able to pull out all the appropriate bits when the occasion arises. You will use those bits in your "elevator speeches" to people you meet. You will use them in your cover letter and in the wonderful opening of your resume document. And of course you will use them in your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

Here is a list of seven key points to keep in mind as you develop this pitch:

1.      You are pitching that you want to solve the hirer' s problem
2.      Be very, very clear on what specific value you offer them that is different from anyone else
3.      Be very, very passionate about doing it
4.      Tell a brief anecdote about a career triumph that proves you have the qualities demanded
5.      You are not asking for them to give you a job  you are offering them a uniquely perfect solution to their problem
6.      You need to understand their needs and challenges  imagine yourself in their place.
7.      You need to present yourself as the solution they are looking for  even if they weren't looking


Q+A: Should I do a resume mass mailing?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Other than a poor return, are there any drawbacks to sending out mass resumes to all appropriate companies? I have tried all the things people have suggested, worked a couple hours a day on networking, on Facebook and LinkedIn, and still nothing. So I thought I would try a mass mailing but wanted to check with you first.

A: If it will make you feel better, then go ahead. But bear in mind how you feel when you get a communication that is clearly written "to whom it may concern." Your suggestion that there will be a poor return to this is probably more optimistic than mine.

Here is how I might suggest you spend your effort instead. If you have been networking, and to no effect, then perhaps you are not presenting your true and unique value to the appropriate people who will jump at the chance to have you on their team.       Perhaps the way you are framing your skills is not quite right. Perhaps it is not clear and succinct enough. Perhaps your target companies or executive selections are not fine-tuned enough.

I would much rather suggest you spend time working on these aspects than doing a mass mailing.

Q+A: How do I treat an interviewer's secretary

Questions from our readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q:  I treat all people with respect, but is there anything to be gained by treating the interviewer's secretary especially well? Will he/she have any influence?   

A: If you always treat people with respect, then simply continue to do so when you meet the secretary.    

Some secretaries may indeed have some influence with the interviewer, but normal politeness should be fine. Don't be condescending, don't bring him flowers, just treat him like an intelligent human being who is doing a good and valuable job.

It's true that a secretary who likes you can help you over any rough scheduling issues and show you where the coffee pot is  but they see many interviewees so they'll know when they are being "worked."

The interviewer is going to be evaluating your experience and work skills and knows best what will fit into the team, so as long as the secretary is not going to say of you, "that person was a real jerk," then you should be okay.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Carve out the time. Just do it.

We all have major issues of our careers - business planning or portfolio development or what have you - that has to get done but we put it off because the day-to-day stuff just won't let us do it.

I am working with a wonderful and dynamic client who needs to spend time writing. Trying to set part of every day aside for it did not work. There were too many other stimuli and phone calls and emails and so on to be dealt with. The time never materialized.

So we have decided that she will carve out - set aside - an entire day every week. And not a weekend day either. A weekday when no calls will be taken and no emails returned. For her the writing is part of moving her career forward. This is not a hobby to be done at night or weekends - it is important. And clients and colleagues will have to understand - and they will. Just this week I had a communication from a senior TV executive who said that she would not be available on one day as she would be traveling. That was easy for me to understand and work around - no problem. Happens all the time. Similarly she might be on a shoot or at a client - also out of reach.

So we have instituted a one day a week for writing - she will be unavailable and the world will not have a problem with that.

I recommend this technique. It could be a day a week or every two weeks - whatever you need. But make it real. Carve it out. Put it on the calendar and stick to it.

Change is energizing and productive. Well duh!

As you may know we have moved. I have been through all my stuff and my methodologies. Why do I have this? Why do I do it that way? What could be done better?

This has been a wonderful opportunity for cleaning out the stables. It gave me the chance to examine and improve and streamline. I am not recommending moving as a fun occupation - but I am recommending finding some excuse now and then for stripping down and seeing what is working and what is not and fixing things up.

Take your technology. You know at the very least that since you last made a technology investment, everything has changed. You may not need to make that change right now - but you should spend a little time figuring out what it means because otherwise when the next upgrade comes you could find yourself way behind - it gets harder to catch up the further behind you get.

And your marketing! Well you know where that could lead.

The other effect of all this is that it takes you out of your comfort zone - your formed habits. This has the effect of making you think and rethink - it is very energizing - nothing can slow your brain down like unthinkingly following the same routes and methods day after day.

Jester = Common Sense and Honesty = Consultant

In days of olde the king had a court jester. This was the only person who was permitted to ask the difficult questions. Jesters were free to challenge the monarch and provide a balance for the sycophants who surrounded them.

The court jester could speak frankly on controversial issues and monarchs knew why; they understood the value of having such a person at their side.

Where are the court jesters of today? It is tough to find this character in any modern corporation. Who is asking the CEO if they really know what they are doing?

According to the Royal Shakespeare Company the jester served not just for entertainment, but to criticize their master or mistress and their guests. Queen Elizabeth I apparently rebuked one of her fools for not being hard enough on her.

In literature, the jester symbolizes common sense and honesty. In King Lear, the King uses his jester for insight and advice. He lets him take advantage of his license to mock and speak freely, to dish out frank observations and point out folly.

Lear's fool is one of only three people in the play who consistently tell him what's what; the other two, Cordelia and the Earl of Kent - employees as it were - are punished severely.

As a management consultant who comes in from outside - I can play that role. I can ask why something is being done a particular way. Or why this person still has their job. And so on. My clients seem to find that valuable. I have no axe to grind other than to see smart decisions being made. I am not a shareholder or an employee with other vested interests. So that could be a key part of the value I bring. To be the court jester.

Bogusky on the Advantages of Being Lost

I commend to you this smart article by Alex Bogusky.  It ran in MediaPost's Media Magazine - if you prefer to read it there, here is the link.

The only thing you know for certain is that you don't
Let me start out by saying that I know nothing about media. That's probably not a surprise to people who know me because I am thought of as a "creative" guy. But you might be surprised to learn that I know nothing about creativity. Furthermore, I know nothing about advertising.

Of course, there are little details I know. Like I do know a little about typography but remain ignorant about design. I know a bunch of chords and songs on the guitar but I remain ignorant about music. I know the process to create a 30-second commercial but I'm still ignorant about marketing. The big stuff remains a mystery to me. In fact, one of my very favorite clients recently said to me, "You don't even know what you don't know," in reference to her business. I liked that thought so much I printed it up on a T-shirt so it read, "I don't even know what I don't know," and I wore it to our next meeting. I gave my son one, too, and he wears it proudly to school. We Boguskys are proud of our ignorance. I love that T-shirt and that thought, but I could probably flip it around to make it a bit more accurate and say, "The only thing I know with complete certainty is that I don't know."

bogusky w glassesNot knowing has been a powerful ally and I have come to rely heavily on the power of ignorance. As a young ad dude, I wasn't comfortable with the lack of knowing that made up who I was. So like most young ad dudes I set out to become an expert at my chosen field. I had, like others before me, begun to confuse knowledge and intelligence. This great quest for advertising knowledge led me to climb up various mountains to meet and hear from as many industry gurus as I could. It was time well spent and I learned a great deal. But eventually I was lucky enough to come to the conclusion that nobody really "knew" anything. The best and the brightest were all just finding their way. And the most successful people seemed to be the most prodigious at making it up as they went along. So not knowing has become a formidable ally. An ally that is threatened as you gain years and years of experience. It's an ally that needs to be protected from dangerous threats like "expertise."

As part of this edition of Media, a blog was created and I had the chance to post some questions. Oddly enough, the one that created the most interest was around this idea of "an expert" and more specifically where did all these social media experts come from so quickly? What makes somebody a social media expert, anyway? And finally, why on earth would anyone want to be an expert? Expertise seems to require experience and the ability to use that expertise seems to require that the future closely resemble the past. As I stated earlier, I'm no expert and I don't know anything, but I highly doubt the media future is going to closely resemble media's past. Not even its most recent past.

Not long ago, I read a book called, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. Great book and I suspect it's as much a business book as a wilderness-survival book; the parallels are astounding. So after a lifetime of interviews with people who lived when those around them died, the author, Laurence Gonzalez, found some fundamental differences in survivors. The first being that survivors more quickly recognized and accepted that they were lost. It seems that people who continued to think they "knew" where they were and stuck with the "plan" died more often than the folks who recognized the rules had changed and that their old beliefs were useless.

Well, let me be the first to tell you that you are lost in the new frontiers of media. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will get to surviving and even thriving. The sooner you let go of old rules, the sooner you will be able to put all your faculties of perception to work in taking in your new environment. I won't go into the laundry list of new landmarks in your new environment because that's like trying to understand the forest by counting the trees. There is a video that has been floating out on the Internet for a while and it's a test. The test is to watch and count how many times some basketball players pass a ball to each other. As you focus on counting, the video finally ends and you feel like you nailed it. I did. And then a question comes up. "Did you see a gorilla walk through the room?" I was like, "no freaking way." But as I watched it again a gorilla pretty much dances across the screen. This is an example of a pre-set plan blocking out the environment.

Another quality of survivors is that they don't look for safety in the emotional security of where they found safety in the past. The example they cite in the book is related to aircraft carrier pilots. With these folks pretty much every landing is an exercise in survival. So if a pilot is coming in at the wrong angle or speed there are a number of warning signs designed to get the pilot to abort the landing. First, his own instruments sound the warning and the lights on the deck of the carrier turn from green to red. And soon the flight controller begins yelling over the radio to abort. Yet with all this information, it isn't uncommon for a pilot to still attempt to land even though logically they know they can't survive the impact. The reason is that the deck represents safety and there is a strong emotional response as the deck gets closer that actually blocks out all the screams in the headset and the lights and the alarms. In the stress of the situation they literally don't hear it all as they reach for the deck that has always meant safety.

What I'm suggesting here is that with all that is happening in media today, this is no time to be in a rush to get down on the deck. I've probably "survived" several changes in the media landscape and I plan to float to safety on another raft of ignorance. So this issue on the future of media isn't about becoming an expert. It's about eschewing the emotional safety of knowledge and expertise, and instead sitting back in ignorance and wonder. It's about taking the time to carefully observe the gorilla as it dances through the room.