Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The importance of listening

First Published in Cynopsis Classified Advantage

One of the most important skills you should use in your job search is listening carefully, both literally and metaphorically. You have to listen to your friends when they tell you about opportunities. You have to listen to your bosses and clients to learn about your strengths and weaknesses. You have to listen to your heart to know what you really want to pursue.

You especially have to listen to the wording of the job ad. What does it actually say they are looking for? You have to listen closely to the recruiter and to your interviewer.

You will already have invested large chunks of time developing your own unique positioning to separate you from the pack. You have probably crafted yourself a script for your elevator meetings, a template for your cover letter, a set of anecdotes for your interview. And all this as it should be. If you have thought it all through and internalized it and what it means, it will do its magic for you. But if you are determined to stick to your script willy-nilly this investment might all be for nought.

Listen carefully to what is said and also between the lines to what is unsaid. And that means listening not only in the moment of the interview, but it means listening to the research you will have done in advance. Listen to what the company says on the website. Listen to the story the recruiter tells you about the job. Listen to the LinkedIn profile of your interviewer. Take it all in and frame your responses and approaches accordingly.

If you are safely in a job but aspire to a promotion or a new assignment, listen to your boss, to your co-workers, to the press so that you can create the opportunity and be there as the obvious person to fill it. This comes not just from wanting it  and telling your boss "I want the bigger title," but from asking the right questions of the right people and listening to what is needed, so you can tell them you will provide just that.

People like to be listened to. They like to be heard. They do not like to be ignored. So tell them you heard them by responding directly and positively to something they said. Don' t stick to a script  be ready to improvise. If they feel you have not listened to them, or worse yet responded with a " No, " they will shut down and they will not listen to you. Listening keeps you relevant and smart. Their awareness of your listening to them keeps them engaged with you. I can' t stress this enough.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Successful job hunt

I received this today from a recent Coaching client and thought I would share it.

Dear Michael,

I did it -- got a job!!!!  I can hardly believe it.  Never would have happened without your coaching, seriously.

In a tough market this experienced professional had almost given up hope of working again, so this news is especially welcome. 

Q+A: LinkedIn profiles and personality

As published in Cynopsis Classified Advantage
Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Recently, I lost my job due to my company's financial state. Downsizing was a must, and I, unfortunately, got the cut. The thing is, it was almost a blessing in disguise. After leaving, I was happier, not something you'd expect after losing one's job. After re- evaluating my industry and the role I played, in the pursuit of happiness, I have decided to career change. It's not been easy, as the unstructured freedom during the work-week has lost a little bit of it's glitter, but I still think I'm heading in the right direction. I have chosen a new career path, but my question is this: how can I make my Linkedin profile reflect my career change? I of course want to put down all of my prior work experience, however, I also want to prove that I can do another job and that my skills translate. If I post my past experience, won't a potential employer think, why would I hire this person from X industry, when we're looking for someone who has experience in Y industry? Does that make sense? Please let me know what you would recommend.

A: I suggest you think very carefully about the skills and experience that will be desirable in your new career. Consider the needs of your potential new employer and find the angle on your past that could be relevant and persuasive. Make the fact of the change and your prior experience an added value. Use the summary section to express this  emphasizing the relevant and unique strengths that come from your rich background in other fields that makes you a stronger candidate than the pack of straight-liners you'll be competing with. Reframe the skills section as well as the details on all your prior positions to support your new positioning. Certain things that were awesome in your old field may have to be dropped because they are no longer relevant, or worse, contradict your new story. With a strong but unusual background, you are most likely to appeal to a smart employer who thinks outside the envelope, and that is likely to be someone you would want to work for.

Q: I find that LinkedIn is so business oriented, that it doesn't have much opportunity for one's personality to come through. Is this a good thing? Or is there something I can do with my account to make it seem less like a cover letter and resume, and reflect other aspects of my life?

A: LinkedIn is primarily a source for business connections. If you really want to express your entire personality in a social media setting, Facebook may be a better vehicle for you.

That said, on LinkedIn, the writing style you use for your summary section is an important way to let your personality shine through. Casual, jargony, straightforward, insightful  all these attributes will tell your reader something important. Different employers and industries have different codes and standards. The formal, passive writing style that appeals to academe is anathema to media people.

Another way to express your personality is through the updates you can post near the top of your profile, though do bear your target audience in mind when you update and remember what qualities they are looking for. By all means if it supports your business case you can mention your hobbies or other interests. If you are an ex-Marine, or a nonprofit board member for example these could certainly be important to include.

But do be sure not to make it look as if your eye will always be on the clock and your mind not on the job.

Don't forget LinkedIn for your job search

This article first appeared in Cynopsis Classified Advantage

By Michael Pollock

I am sure you are well established on LinkedIn, but are you using it effectively in your job search? It is just too easy for us to let it sit there passively in the background, but there are some simple and effective ways to extract value.

Start by connecting to as many people as you can think of. Duh! But I am sure there are some you have missed. Don' t just think of people who might hire you...connect to people you once worked with. Connect to people who worked for you. Connect to people who might know someone who could help you in the future. Look closely at who is connected to your connections; I know you will have several, " Oh, yes. I had forgotten about her!" moments.

I was working today with a filmmaker who has been specializing in medical topics. He is going to see his dentist in a couple of weeks. This dentist goes to medical conferences and knows lots of people who might need film. What if he was on LinkedIn? What if some of his professional connections wanted film made for their professional associations? What if they worked for pharmaceutical companies? Sounds like a valuable connection for this filmmaker. Who are the equivalents in your field?

Another excellent use: as you look at job ads on Cynopsis Classified Advantage or other boards, note the companies who seem to have good opportunities for you. Then search those companies on LinkedIn  there is a drop down menu on the search field that lets you search for people or for companies. See if anyone from those firms knows anyone that you know. Then email your friend and ask to be introduced. I recommend not using the automated LinkedIn introduction tool  make the request something more personal. So now you can network your way into the hiring company and do your research and make the connections you need to get you in there.

Does your LinkedIn headline clearly indicate your value to a hirer? As with all communications  each piece needs to make the reader want more. Does your summary give a clear expression of what you offer and engagingly differentiate you from all the others? Does your chronology include experience and specifics that support and flesh out your summary? Does your specialty list include all the keywords that recruiters might use in a job search?

As with so many of these online systems there are depths that I never plumb, and I' m not taking you there. But start with the easy-to-use pieces; get them working together guided by your constant attention and research and insight. It really is an adventure, a voyage of exploration. Keep poking around and you will find valuable connections you never knew you had and see more and more ways to get your carefully constructed message into the right hands.