Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Job Hunting: Research, Connect and Summarize

This article by Michael Pollock first appeared in Cynopsis Classified Advantage.

Once you are clear in your own mind on the value you offer a potential employer, there are three main keys to focus on as you look for a job: research, connect and summarize.

Research: Start by identifying at least 10 companies that look as if they need exactly that thing that you are good at: businesses that operate in your niche and surely need the skills and experience that only you offer. The more specific your value statement, the narrower and more productive will be your list of target companies. Learn as much as you can about these businesses. As you dive into this research, you will be led to other companies and you will relegate some to the back burner. Become clearer about the work you want to do, and keep this goal in mind to help you prioritize.

Connect: Use your search engines and LinkedIn and exploit all your networks to get introduced to people who work in the companies on your target list. Volunteer for work in the field so you can get experience and build your network. Ask the people you meet how they do their work, what they need, what keeps them up at night, where they are headed, and you will start to figure out where you can fit in. Keep in touch with everyone  not in an annoying "What have you done for me recently" sort of way, but in a helpful "Here is what I have been doing and learned that might interest you" sort of way.

Summarize: As you meet new contacts, listen to yourself. You will find yourself telling them who you are, and as you do so you'll be summarizing your value concisely and effectively: "Here is what I can do and here are three reasons why I am the best person to do it." See how it sounds. Do they engage with it and want to know more? Was it in fact concise and effective? Try out new versions. Make it better and stronger. Use it in your cover letters and resume.

That summary of your value is what people will remember about you. It focuses on what value you provide and not on the tiresome fact that you need a job. They will then tell their relevant colleagues that they should see you because you are precisely who they are searching for. Your story could start going viral!

These steps bear very much in mind that statistics tell us you are vastly more likely to get a job from a personal connection than not. And that many jobs are not advertised publicly.

So the three keys to remember: research, connect and summarize.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coaching results - TV biz client

Here are excerpts from the report of an executive in the TV business who wanted to refresh her career and recently completed a course of Pollock Spark coaching:

Q: What are some of the things that you were enabled to understand or to achieve as a result of our work?
I have a much better understanding of what I’d been doing wrong.  
You helped me figure out who I am professionally and that my identity is potentially valuable to clients or an employer. 
I have  clear sense of what I really want to be doing versus what kind of jobs I thought I should be looking for.

I am able to think about Me and My Experience as “products” and/or “services” that need to be branded and marketed.

I understand the importance of synthesizing my core value to a potential employer/client and how to use that as a frame for an interview and my website.

I learned how to tell stories that distinguish me from other(s in my field).

I learned how to write a shorter, better cover letter that is an advertisement for Me.

Your guidance and suggestions concerning my website were awesome.

It was also really good for me to have deadlines and “assignments” and to have upcoming sessions sort of hanging over my head so that I wouldn’t procrastinate.

Q:  We conducted many of our sessions on the phone – did you find this to be an effective method?  What was good or not good about it?
On the phone versus in person is a bit like the difference between radio and TV.  Radio allows the listener to focus more on meaning, so your brain is actually more engaged in the topic, as opposed to TV which engages brain activity that in some ways is superfluous and emotionally off target.

Q:  Would you recommend this coaching to others?  How would you describe it?
I would definitely recommend it to others.  How I would describe it would be tailored to who the person is, kind of like tailoring a cover letter and resume.  But in general, I will tell people that you are wonderful, brilliant, insightful and that I wish I had discovered you a year ago.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Could you be stifling innovation instead of encouraging it?

Change is a pre-requisite for survival - whether as an individual or as part of an  organization.  

How are you going to get the people in your team to think and act innovatively so that you can change and improve the services or products you offer to keep up with demand and with the competition. 

The challenge is nicely laid out by Prof John Bessant in his eminently readable book "High Involvement Innovation" (see below).

When you start to look at whether your organization supports innovation or whether it actually inhibits it, a good way is to ask people to tell you their favorite "killer phrases".  This will quickly show the ways that ideas are getting killed - and how this can work to prevent the kind of effective innovations that we perhaps thought we were encouraging.

They often take for form of "Great idea...BUT..."  BUT: now that's how to stop an idea in its tracks. If people get used being told "no" in these ways they will soon stop even trying to propose new ideas.

Here are some "killer phrases" running inside people's heads:

I've got a good idea - BUT
   No-one will listen to me
   It's not my job to offer ideas
   Someone else must already have thought of it
   I'll look stupid if I say anything

At the group or organization level they might look like this:

That's a great idea - BUT
   We've already tried it
   We've never tried it
   We don't have time / money/people/other resources
   X wouldn't like it
   X would like it (!)
   It's not the way we do things around here
   We did that last year and look what happened.

So start by asking yourself or your teams what are their killer phrases. Then you will begin to see what has to be done to alter the climate so that the ideas, some of which will mean the difference between success and failure, can come to the surface and be taken seriously, tested and implemented. 

If your culture has evolved to stifle innovation - then innovation you will not get.