Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hybrid background? A terrific job qualification.

I spoke recently with an executive who had a most successful corporate career in the TV business and has since for some years been in more entrepreneurial positions developing projects and new businesses. He wants to get back to a more structured environment but is concerned that having been out of the corporate system for some years might disqualify him. His thought was that corporations are looking for neat fits of people who are currently or have recently been in corporate jobs and that his time outside the fence would disqualify him.

Well it shouldn' t. Everyone I talk to in big media firms is telling me the same story  and that is of restructuring and rethinking and new business models and fewer people doing the work that used to be done by many ... and smaller paychecks. Does that sound right, my corporate friends?

My experience is that people who have grown up in highly structured organizations where everyone knows where they fit into the pecking order, and who has what title and so on, are not always the best people to implement the kinds of changes that are needed to bring media firms up to date. The status quo that corporate employees have long thrived on is dead. That security blanket is no more. In fact things will be in a constant state of flux for the foreseeable future so anyone who works best in a fixed orbit with known parameters will not fare well or be sufficiently effective.

But someone who has not only worked successfully in a corporate environment, yet can also bring first hand experience of an inventive, open and entrepreneurial way of thinking to the table, will be enormously valuable in so many companies today. This combination is something that corporate managers should be looking for.

I suggest to you that if you have this hybrid background, you would do well to frame yourself in those terms: as an entrepreneurial change agent who is excited at the prospect of helping to mold the new media world, yet still able to work collegially within the system.  This combo could be your edge.

So this is a word to corporate hiring executives and to those who aspire to get in there and help reinvent the media business. All experience is good experience. And a candidate with a variety of experience is often a stronger one than the person who has stayed "on track" for their whole career.

This article by Michael Pollock first published in Cynopsis Advantage.

Q+A:How should I address my interviewer?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: If the interviewer doesn't tell you want to call him/her, should I use their last name? Show confidence and refer to them by their first name? Go formal and use Miss, Mrs. or Ms.? Sir? Ma'am?

A: For the media business I would avoid anything too formal.  But of course be polite. You should probably enter the room confidently and as you go for the handshake, introduce yourself by your first and last name. Perhaps you'll get a cue from your interviewer: if they call you by your first name then you can respond in kind.

But really, if there are only two of you in the room, why do you need to use a name at all? They know who you are talking to. I myself find it extremely irritating when people use my name to me in a form like, "I am glad you asked that, Michael." Or "Let me tell you something, Mr. Pollock." (Was Dale Carnegie responsible for this?)

So on balance you will most likely get through the whole interview without needing to call them anything. Just keep your mind on being the best person to solve their problem, and try not to fret about the name thing.

Q+A:What should I bring to an interview?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: What should I bring to an interview? I don't want to bring too much stuff, and yet be prepared for anything.

A: Bring your portfolio of work if that applies. Bring your sizzle reel or other material that can be left behind. Bring a few copies of your resume. Bring a notebook and pen in case you get any ideas or learn anything that you need to remember. That is about it.

The most important stuff will be in your head: who you are, why you are valuable, your stories that demonstrate this, your knowledge of the company and understanding of their brand, your grasp of what they are looking for. Internalize all this, relax and remember they need you just as much as you need them. And don't forget to turn your phone off!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Have your stories ready

Pitching an idea? Looking for a job? Facing an interview? Then tell stories. This simple and time-honored technique lies at the heart of the way to sell yourself and your ideas.

Tell your stories. Tell stories that will suck people in, make their eyes open wider and then watch them lean in and want to hear more.

If you choose your stories well – which incidentally I insist that you do – then each of these stories will, as subtext, tell the story of you that you want to tell. Tell of things that you did in your career, of successes and excitements. (Donʼt bother with the disasters and the failures – the story of how you were not able to sell your great idea will work against you, however good the idea may have been.)

Make them vivid and specific – name names and brands and programs and networks. If you have worked in another country, if you have built a business or started from scratch or developed a team – have the story ready. When you do this you will find that the stories engage not only the listener, but also you the storyteller. Telling your stories will give you energy you didnʼt know you had, and that will be infectious.

I am working with a client who is enormously accomplished but had been talking about herself in generalizations. Even she was bored when she talked about herself. We worked on choosing some stories that would speak volumes about her value and experience. We talked about picking from among them, the stories that would work for a particular situation or interviewer. We talked about how the
stories she told would add up to a compelling picture of who she is and what sheʼs done and what value she brings: in specifics not in generalizations.

My client had an interview yesterday. She told me today that it was a “Great” interview.” “Why?” I asked. “Because for the first time in an interview I told stories. Telling them gave me a confidence that I never had. And while usually I feel I am too quiet, this gave me energy.”

So think about the stories from your career. Pick the ones that you get excited about and frame them so that they frame you brilliantly. And tell them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Design firm gets team in sync for marketing effort

It’s critical that my clients – especially the creative people I work with – are deeply involved with their own professional development, both strategically and tactically.  Just telling them what they should do doesn’t work. Without full understanding of why to take a particular course of action – and without having worked through the possibilities and come to the conclusion themselves – they will not follow through.

So the way I work has developed over time, moving from traditional consulting methods to incorporate the tools and techniques of coaching and workshops:  I help my clients to arrive at their own conclusions.   I create the framework, bringing my experience and suggestions to the table so that ultimately my clients are enabled to address their own challenges and discover their own opportunities.

The effect is magnified when I work with a team as it's reinforced and multiplied by their collaboration over time.  A most valuable added benefit for teams is that they learn anew how to work with each other.  A Workshop takes them out of their regular day-to day roles and they step back and revisit the larger picture. 

I recently led a Marketing Workshop with the core team of a design firm and here is what the owner told me afterwards:

“The work we did together was certainly helpful, for me to have an outside perspective, but perhaps the most important thing being that we all thought as a team and came to an understanding of what it means to work at (the company) and what we stand for.”

These words made my heart glad.  After all, how effective can your marketing be if it does not spring from these fundamental understandings.  This is exactly the sort of result that a Workshop can provide.