Friday, January 29, 2010

Career Planning Workshop

I took part in a terrific panel titled: Career Planning Strategies & Tools for Progressive Professionals organized by Metierlink's Sonia Jairath this past Wednesday.

My co-panelists were Lisa Rangel, Managing Director of Chameleon Resumes and Tom Jago, MD of recruiting firm The Ward Group.

In attendance were 40 professionals from video, digital marketing, graphic design, journalism, marketing and other creative fields.

The discussion covered career evolution strategies, resume writing,  personal branding,  what recruiters really do and even how to be nice to HR people.

Attendees said they learned much more than they have at other career focused events. One email I received said "Great Presentation. Your creative perspective was most interesting, thanks for your advice."

Hey gotta share this stuff, right?

So here's how we looked against the green screen - I wonder what backdrop we should put in there!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Go out and sell!

Love this from the NYT interview with Cristóbal Conde, president and C.E.O. of SunGard

Q. What’s your best career advice for young people?

A. My advice to young people is always, along the way, have a sales job. You could be selling sweaters. You could be selling ice cream on the street. It doesn’t matter. Selling something to somebody who doesn’t want to buy it is a lifelong skill. I can tell when somebody comes in for an interview and they’ve never had any responsibility for sales.

Here is the rest of the interview

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Staff morale and motivation

I have been speaking to leaders of creative businesses about what it will take to strengthen the morale and motivation of their creative staff.

I have seen some businesses that quantitatively poll their people, asking them to rank such things as their work-life balance on a scale, and also to rank their satisfaction with their salaries. Hmm. I wonder what sort of answers they are getting. Actually the answers they get are not that helpful and it is tough to know what to do with the information - which appears on a scale of 1-10. It is good that the attempt is made to discover the issues, but the combination of the questions asked and the numerical scales and the general resistance of creative types to filling out forms, makes it less useful than one might wish.

I suggest instead that they consider doing some qualitative research that would allow us to learn in more detail about the aspirations of the staff members and their drivers for success. It should be conducted in the spirit of a “positive enquiry” that will emphasize discovery of the strengths and the opportunities. Tailored of course to the organization, questions might include: “What do you look forward to every day when you come into the office?” ”What project that you did at the firm was most professionally satisfying and why?” “What opportunities do you see for yourself at the company?”

I recommend that these kinds of questions are posed by an outside investigator rather than someone from management or HR. The independent researcher usually gets franker responses than does someone from inside. When the findings have been carefully analyzed and the right insights obtained, this is likely to be a more productive survey than the quant – and in the right hands lead to constructive action steps.

And it can be a refreshing change from the familiar list of general gripes with no constructive way forward indicated.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Q+A: Types of resumes

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: I have heard about different types of resumes, but know nothing about them. What are the different types and what are the pros and cons of each?

Those who like to categorize things seem to divide resumes into three types: chronological, functional and targeted.

The chronological resume presents your work history in yes you guessed it chronological order. Hopefully this shows a steady progress of gaining knowledge responsibility and experience, but emphasis on the timeline can often obscure your skills.

The functional resume focuses on your skills, the things that you do well and allows you to sidestep the chronology, if it' s not a strong suit.

The targeted resume is crafted to best position you for a particular position. In this case you present (dare I say “spin”) your experience to the best advantage for that gig.

Probably the first thing the hirer will look for is: what are your skills. If that looks good, then they will want to see that your experience is relevant to them. There is very little desire to train in this market a new hire that can hit the ground running is the ideal. Hence functional could be indicated.

They will want to see that your career has been moving in a positive direction - they don' t want to bring you in if you are on a downward path. Hence chronological could be the choice.

Your resume needs to present the most persuasive and complete picture to the target you are sending it to. It has no value unless it speaks to the receiver' s needs. So in order for it to be effective you need to show some understanding of your reader and what she is looking for. Hence targeted.

In almost all cases you will want to create a hybrid of the various types. But know that you have the freedom to use components of each in the appropriate balance to make your strongest case. What counts is the effect it has, not the category it falls into.

Q+A: Relocating from Paris to LA?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: I'm currently based in Paris, and I’m looking to relocate in Los Angeles and find a job in the media industry. I'm currently a producer/writer in an animation company. I have an agent that represents me in Los Angeles, I travel every 3 months for a week to meet with people and focus on my networking, I keep in touch via email...

I've been doing that for almost 2 years now, and still I haven't found any job. Any advice on what I could/should do to land the job I want?

A: Grill your agent. Talk to him every few days. Learn from what he sees as the opportunities for you. Find out why nothing has happened. Ask him if you are being presented appropriately and does he have the materials he needs. Do your own research on the companies that are interesting to you. Ask the agent to get you meetings. Then if that gets you nowhere, maybe you need to ask yourself whether this is the right agent for your needs.

But here is what I really think. If you are passionate about moving to the media industry in LA: then move to LA. As long as you are not there people will take you less seriously.

If you need the income, consider taking any job that will enable you to live and breathe the LA industry just to get your boots on the ground. It is a big deal for an employer to be responsible for someone relocating, it is a headache to deal with the immigration issues and they run the risk that you may not stay. It adds a level of commitment that they do not want to take unless you are a truly unique and valuable talent that they cannot find in their own market.

So I would find a way to move there and be a part of their world. People will respect that you have made the commitment to LA and it will remove the barrier of them having to feel responsible for you crossing half the world to take their job.

What the interviewer is really thinking

What Your Interviewer is Really Thinking!
by Michael Pollock

So you' ve made it to the interview. Your networking worked. Your cover letter worked. Your resume worked. As you sit there facing the last hurdle, it is really important to have a sense of what might be going through your interviewer' s mind.

The first thing to understand is that she is not sitting there thinking, “ I really have to find a job for this person because he hasn' t worked in three months and he' s racking up credit card bills.” She is not thinking that. She is not there to solve your problems.

Be ready to listen to her, to understand why she is asking the questions that she' s asking and to answer them in a way that will help her, rather than in a way that will help you. Try and figure out what it was in your cover letter and resume that helped you make the cut. How was it you framed yourself that got you to this point?

Here are some things she might be thinking - some good and some bad. See if you can come up with some more, and be ready to help her out.

I hope this is the person - I am really sick of doing these interviews. He doesn' t seem to be the same person as he did in his resume.

How will Sheila like her? She' s always complaining that my creative team has too much attitude and doesn' t listen to her.

Will he be able to get up to speed quickly? I can' t afford the time for training and we have a huge backlog of work to get done.

Will he make me famous? Will I look like a chump if I hire this guy?

The last three people I hired lasted less than a year - I really need someone who can survive here.

Should I let her meet Jim to see if he likes her, or will he just scare her off? Let' s see how she handles criticism she' ll need a thick skin to survive here! Will he be a team player?

Does that even matter for this position?

Consider asking some questions of your own and don' t forget to listen to the answers. Smart people ask good questions and then they listen carefully to discover insights that can help them move the conversation forward in a productive fashion. In this way you can hear for yourself what the interviewer is thinking and use it to frame yourself as the solution to her problem.

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( ). He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Q+A: How to make a great first impression during an interview

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: What is the best way to make a great first impression during an interview?

A: You don't need me to tell you about firm handshakes and appropriate clothes. So here is the substance of what will make your interview go well.

Be very well prepared. Know what the job is and what the company does. Know who it competes with and what are the latest developments in the field.

Learn in advance as much as you can about your interviewer: what is their expertise and background so much of this is available online.

Know what you have in your experience and passions that will suit you for the position and let this frame all your answers.

Let the interviewer set the agenda for the conversation, but do not be afraid to frame your answers to your advantage and create openings to tell brief anecdotes of your relevant successes.

Be confident in your abilities - but not pushy. Feel within you that you are the person they need to fill this position. Be really interested and enthusiastic about the work that they do and the opportunity you will be afforded. Thank the interviewer for meeting with you and say that you would be excited to work there.

Q+A: How can I tell if my resume is good?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: How can I tell if my resume is good?

A: We all sweat our resumes so much: we revise and cut and paste and we lose our grip on how it looks and what it really says. Time and again language gets left behind on an old version and key ideas get lost.

Read it to yourself again - out loud. Ask yourself: "Does it clearly show that I have the goods for this particular position? Does it say simply and concisely what I offer and what I have done that will support that case? Is it easy to read?"
Then show it to other people. Really. Don't be afraid. It needs to be tested before it is put into action. Show it to people who don't know you well.

Give them a 5 second look and then take it away from them and ask them to tell you what you offer.

Then give them another 5 second look and ask them to tell you what your most recent experience has been and how it qualifies you for the position you are going for.
Listen to what they say. Are they seeing what you need the hirer to see? If not, try another version and test it again.

A hirer will look at your resume for just a matter of seconds before passing on. It has to work quickly and it has to be totally framed to present you as ideal for the job at hand. That is it.

Give the 5 second test a try - and keep refining it and trying again until people feed back to you just what you want the hirer to get from it.