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Age Discrimination, Old Job Seekers, Options

August 31st, 2010

There’s a discussion I think we need to have that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last year or so, as the job market has gotten worse.

The pink elephant seems to be those who are discriminated against for their age – specifically, the older worker (we can talk about age discrimination for younger workers in a separate post).

Let’s assume a couple of things:

  1. The economy, and the job market, are in the crapper.  Regardless of what strategies and tactics you employ, some of you just won’t find a job. Period.
  2. Older people (what’s the age cutoff?  40?  50?  60?  Or is it a matter of wrinkles and gray(ing) hair?) are passed over for jobs for various reasons.

Put these two together and it can be beyond discouraging.

Yesterday I read a really interesting post titled Silicon Valley’s Dark Secret: It’s All About Age. Of course we knew some of this stuff (or all of it), and it’s not limited to Silicon Valley.  But the post puts certain things into perspective.

The author, Vivek Wadhwa, ends with this:

Finally, I don’t know of any university, including the ones I teach at, that tells its engineering students what to expect in the long term or how to manage their technical careers. Perhaps it is time to let students know what lies ahead.

Interesting… does this mean that what you think your career will look like is what it really will look like?

Maybe, the older we get, the more our career changes?

It’s not that you are getting put out to pasture (excuse the phrase but I know many older, discriminated-against wannabe-employees feel that way), but maybe your role and value prop is simply different.

Maybe you are chasing after the wrong job, wrong level, wrong company.

What are the options… one I’ve heard is “I don’t have to work anymore… I’m trying to figure out if I want to.”  What a nice place to be.  Not many have that option.

What are other options?

Freelancing/consulting seems fun but it is definitely not without stress or problems.

Starting a company is a viable option but, again, not without stress or problems (who’s ready to spend 15 hours a day on a new business??).

Seriously… what are real options for older workers who are not finding any success in finding a job, I mean making ends meet, I mean figuring out where any income will come from??

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How to Prepare for a Layoff

August 27th, 2010

This is what I get in my email every day… a Google Alert on the work “layoffs”:

prepare_for_layoff

I wonder about those 2,000 employees for the Royal Bank of Scott (RBS), or the 130 employees of USA Today… did they see the writing on the wall?

Did they ignore it, like I did?

Or were they busy working hard, plunking on their keyboard trying to prove their value so their name wouldn’t end up on the list?

Were they hiding in the corner, ignoring reality, or were they out doing stuff in preparation for a termination?

If you came to me and said “Jason, I’m getting laid off in 6 months,” or “I have a six month severance package, WHAT DO I DO??”, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. Figure out your finances. How much time do you have before you have zero dollars in the bank?  This goes FAST.  All of my meager savings  went away because of automobile problems … in the first week of unemployment!  Oops.  Figuring out your finances helps you understand where you are at, how helpful unemployment insurance would be and what you need to make ends meet.  You can start to think about Plan B (asking family for help) and Plan C (asking your church for help), etc.  You can also figure out if a McDonalds job would even be helpful… working 40 hours a week at minimum wage – would that really solve your financial gap?  I’m not sure – you have to do the math on that one.
  2. Start networking. Brainstorm your contact list.  Write every name down – even people you don’t like.  This is not a discriminatory exercise, this is a lifeline.  Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they can’t be immensely helpful in your transition.  Maybe they like you and don’t realize you don’t like them :p  Networking is a continual process… it’s not a one-time communication.  Read at least one good networking book to put you in the right frame of mind.
  3. Figure out what your value proposition and pitch is. Read Peggy Klaus’ book Brag.  Be ready to answer the question “how’s your job search going?”  Be ready to stand up and give a 10 – 30 second elevator pitch.  Fix up your LinkedIn Profile so it communicates your expertise and value prop.  Google your name and see what comes up (and then resolve to get the right results when someone else google’s your name).
  4. Name 3 target companies you are interested in working at. These aren’t the only companies you’ll look at but it gives you a place to start, and when someone asks how they can help (they disguise that question by asking “how’s the job search going?”) you can respond with a request to help network into any of those three companies.  Change the companies every day if you want, but be able to state at least 1 or 2 companies in every conversation you have with someone who can help you.
  5. Get ready for a long process. My dad said “You’ll be out of work for at least 6 months.” I thought he was mistaken but he was absolutely right.  This can be a fun, although frustrating, time.  Spend more time on stuff you’ve been neglecting (books, family, working out, hobbies, etc.).  Don’t beat yourself up for being a casualty – it’s usually not your fault you are on the street looking (along with millions of others).  Get your head in the game, and have the right attitude, or else your bad attitude will get in the way of your networking and other efforts.

Those are the strategies I’d advise you to do as you prepare for a transition – whether it is in a crummy economy (like now) or a great economy (like when I was unemployed… but still couldn’t land).

Here are the tools I recommend you get on right away:

  1. JibberJobber.com. You need to organize your job search and networking efforts.  Where did you send which version of what resume?  Who do you follow up with when?  This is very difficult to keep track of with any non-database system – especially as your job search goes on and on.
  2. LinkedIn.com. This is where professional networking is done and recruiters are here in droves.  Get on LinkedIn and do all the right stuff.  If you need help get my LinkedIn DVD.  Bundle it with the JibberJobber premium account and get significant savings.

There are more but that’s all I’d recommend for now – I don’t want to overwhelm you with were you could be… get started RIGHT NOW.

You may have heard of the concept of digging a well before you are thirsty, right?

That means RIGHT NOW.

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No insightful blog post today

August 20th, 2010

I flew into LAX yesterday and drove to Malibu last night – today I speak at Pepperdine’s MBA orientation.  I’ve done this type of thing before and have really enjoyed it.

I’ll be back next week – today I’m hanging out on one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve been to with some really cool people :)

pepperdine_campus

(This morning I got up early and walked the “horseshoe” which was very hilly… I saw some fun animals (deer, rabbits, etc.) and amazing trees and greenery (hey, I live in Utah – CA is really quite amazing))

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Networking Doesn’t Work (part II) – agree?

August 19th, 2010

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post called Networking Doesn’t Work.  It’s a good post :)

Just yesterday someone left the following comment:

“Networking” is the most overused word since 2008 (right after “green”). It is not effective even with proper guidance for 90% of people. I have seen counselors, spoken to career advisors, spoken to recruiters, etc. and followed their advice to the letter, keeping an up-beat and optimistic demeanor. I was still jobless for nine months, and when I did finally land a job, it was a minimum wage retail position.

The notion that “it works when it’s done right” is pure, unadultered arrogance; trite words spoken out of ignorance and lack of perspective. There are complete idiots with no demonstrable skills whatsoever landing jobs right off the bat with no networking effort, while skilled, accomplished and intelligent people have a hard time finding work whether applying directly or through networking.

It isn’t that “networking is done wrong,” it’s that 90% of employers are lead by people undeserving of any kind of decision-making position. They’d rather pay more to support unemployment through taxes than to actually hire people, so even from a cost-saving perspective, the idea of cutting and locking out jobs is a stupid one.

What do you think?

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From Learning to Doing: Quantity vs. Quality

August 18th, 2010

I’m finishing up SPIN Selling, a great book on sales techniques, and at the end the author talks about implementing the stuff you learn.

He compares implementing what the book talks about with learning a new language.  He says in the past, language courses focuses on the quality of learning, but when they switched the model to the quantity (talking more, writing more, and worrying about fixing errors later) the learning happened at 5 times the rate.

This makes a lot of sense to me – since 6th grade I was in Spanish classes and have lived in Spanish-speaking areas for 6 years.  I love Spanish and I learned to speak/read it really well.

I think that if my first 4 years of Spanish would have been different – focusing on the quantity instead of fixing every tiny little error, that I would have been conversational a lot quicker.

This is how babies learn to talk.  There are *some* similarities between this and the Suzuki music method (I know, I know, they focus a lot on quality).

How does this relate to your job search?

Perhaps you are not doing things as you focus on quality issues… sometimes you need to just DO THE THING.

Pick up the phone, even if you aren’t positive what you’ll say.

Go to the networking event, even if you don’t have a business card.

Say your 30 second elevator commercial, even thought it is not perfected.

Send out your resume, even if you haven’t gotten feedback from your 20 friends yet.

DO THINGS.

As you do them you can improve.  You can constantly get better.  But focusing on perfect, which can be a grand deterrent to actually doing the thing, will leave you behind.

Not to say that quality isn’t important, but if you aren’t doing anything because you are worried about quality then you need to adjust.

(similar concept: what is the difference between “good enough” and “perfect?”)

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JibberJobber Testimonial: “I will continue using JibberJobber…”

August 17th, 2010

Last week I got this fantabulous message from a JibberJobber user. I really appreciate the time people spend to share this type of feedback. This was out-of-the-blue, unsolicited.

Hi, I just wanted to thank the JibberJobber staff for helping me stay organized during my latest job search. I had been unemployed at other times in my life and it was much easier to stay organized this time with JibberJobber at my disposal. I found hunting for a job to be less grueling as I was able to organize contacts and companies online, instead of using paper and pen as I had previously been doing. I received a wonderful offer Friday from one of the contacts I had stored in my JibberJobber account, and I credit your service with helping me stay organized enough to find employment.

I will continue using JibberJobber for storing information about companies and contacts. This way if or when the time comes when I need to look for work again, I will be able to use previously established contacts to shorten that job search.

Thank you again for offering this great service. I will continue recommending JibberJobber to others who are looking for work.

- Melissa C.

Thank you Melissa!  What a great story to share with me and my team – we LOVE to read this stuff!

Also, congratulations for “getting it.”  You say “when I need to look for work again.”  That time will come and your preparation now will help make the transition much smoother than it would otherwise be!

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Why It Is Hard To Get Excited About Positive Jobs Forecasts and News

August 16th, 2010

I have a hard time getting excited about all the jobs “created”… I already ranted about the fake census jobs.

Here’s another example.  From my local news station, in their article Where the Jobs Are, Part 2:

Goldman Sachs & Co. is in the middle of a dramatic expansion in the Salt Lake City market. Two years ago, Goldman boasted 350 employees locally. By the end of the year there will be more than 1,150.

That’s great news, right?  A mid-sized city like Salt Lake getting about 800 new jobs?  HOW EXCITING!

And my heavens, these are jobs at Goldman Sachs!!!  How freaking awesome.

I’m going to put my resume in right away.  They have saved my family (hallelujah!), they have saved our town (hallelujah!)… unemployment in Salt Lake is going to shoot way down (hallelujah!)!

But waaaaaait…..

What I’m hearing (and maybe I’m wrong) is that most, the grand majority, of these new jobs are (wait for it….) ENTRY LEVEL.

Now I’m not here to bash on entry level jobs…. but how come no one is saying that none of these jobs will actually be enough to pay a mortgage and my utilities and other bills associated with my family?

Tell me about job creation at the $60k-and-up level and then we’re talking.

I have a hard time getting excited about lots of jobs at $13 or $16 or even $22 an hour range… the jobs we’ve lost are in higher than that.  That’s the income we need to “replace.”

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Networking: How “The Fourth Degree” Works

August 13th, 2010

On my JibberJobber user webinar I share a lot of job search, networking, branding and other career management ideas I’ve picked up along the way.

One of my most favorite mini-ideas is this:

You don’t find job leads from your first and second degree contacts.  You find them from your third and fourth degree contacts.

Same with sales leads…. this is the part about networking that can be hard… always asking “do you know someone that _________?”  It could be someone from a certain company, or industry, or that meets a certain profile.

The frustrating thing was keeping track of the breadth and the depth of your network… if I’m networking a lot, HOW do I keep track of all of the third and fourth degree contacts?  Or, the SEVENTH degree contacts??

You can easily do this in JibberJobber (here’s a post I need to update about how this works in JibberJobber).

Anyway, I had an experience two days ago that helped drive this mini-idea home.

fourth_degree_help

Here’s what this looks like… the number behind the name is the Degree of Separation TO Stephanie (not to me).

Stephanie asks Paul (1) for help.   Paul doesn’t know but he asks me (2).  I don’t know the right answer but I referred him to Robert Merrill (3), who knows everyone in this space.

Robert will probably give Stephanie a number of names that he recommends, which will all be 4th degree contacts to Stephanie.  She might need to drill down more to a deeper level, but she is getting close just because she asked Paul.

If you aren’t asking “who do you know” of your network, you are missing out on really getting to the right person… you have to drill down.

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Yes Indeed, You Do Have A (Personal) Brand

August 12th, 2010

Every once in a while I hear the negative about personal branding. I’ve seen blog posts from really big/influential (in their space) bloggers who say that “personal branding” is a crock.

Here’s a thoughtful piece called Personal Branding RIP by Mitch Joel, something of a god in the digital marketing space.  Make sure to read the comments, which are very good.

Yesterday I got a note on Facebook, in response to my blog post about Donald McMichael’s website… here is some of the dialog:

personal_brand_facebook

I know some people think that the term “branding” or “personal branding” is not the best term for what we’re talking about…. I don’t really care what you call it, though, you have a “personal brand.”

I use that term because it’s the most acceptable term, and I think it’s here to stick. I don’t care as much about the term, though, as the concept behind it.

You are known for something.  Some people have a personal brand that is “on purpose.”  That is, they strategically work on it and know how to define it, and help others understand what it is based on what they’ve thought about.

Others (many of us) have a personal brand that just kind of happened.

Like that guy at work who always gets out of work.

Like that lady who talks way too much.

Like that guy who doesn’t say much but is 1,000% dependable.

Like the lady who makes THE BEST powerpoint presentations.

Like the guy in school who always got an A, and who you wanted on your team project.

Like the antagonist, or the peace maker, or the bully…

These are examples of unintentional personal brands.  They just kind of happen… you do your thing and people know you for it.

Yesterday’s post was an example of a guy who has done an awesome job of defining, intentionally, his personal brand.

Perhaps personal branding doesn’t matter to you right now.  When I was the general manager of a software company it didn’t matter to me… because my assumed brand was very strong.

But when I became “Jason the unemployed guy,” and the assumed brand of “general manager” went away, I found myself in a bad place.  It was time to create my own personal brand (even though I hadn’t heard that term at the time).

What about you?  Is your brand intentional or unintentional right now?

More posts that go into the semantics of “personal branding”:

Personal Branding – Real or Fake?

Why I Hate the Term “Personal Branding” (read the comments!)

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Personal Branding – What Do You Do?

August 11th, 2010

Donald McMichaelI recently came across a great blog by Donald McMichael (@DonaldMcMichael)… he’s a business strategist with a strong background in finance.  His recent blog posts include:

Can you get a sense, just from the titles of those posts, about his passion and interest in business strategy?

If not, here’s his tag cloud:

Donald McMichael tag cloud

The words just jump out at you… image a recruiter, hiring manager or HR person looking at that tag cloud – it is very clear what Donald is interested in.

If that’s not enough, check out his well-scripted bio (down at the bottom of his website/blog):

Numbers Guy (Finance) by training. Business Development and Strategy (revenue models, partnerships, technology) by experience. Creative by heart. 

Donald McMichael has never been afraid of pushing himself. In fact, he thrives on it. Since his first year in business school at Duke, Donald has been working on projects that require him to stretch his thinking beyond convention. It is these critical-thinking and creative problem-solving skills that allow Donald to help organizations fulfill their potential. read more >>

Here’s the icing on the cake… check out his header:

donald_mcmichael_header

Everyone says they are a problem solver, right?  Donald solves problems, too.  But he solves, perhaps specializes in solving, the TOUGHEST problems!

Great job Donald – this is fantastic stuff – solid content, great (simple) design, very on-brand and highlights you in a big way!

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