Reducing Friction (In Your Job Search, and in JibberJobber)

November 19th, 2015

A couple of years ago I started to think about the little things that “rub people the wrong way.” The “friction” in the JibberJobber user experience.

Very quickly I started to think about friction in my own relationships… what did I do that seemed abrasive to others?

And that led me to think about JibberJobber users, who every day have opportunities to communicate with others. Have you introduced friction in your communication? For example, type-os or lack of clarity in your resumes, or saying weird things in networking situations or job interviews? Is their friction because of what you wear, or how you say things?

Friction can be good, of course.  If it weren’t for friction, cars wouldn’t stop (or go, the way they are currently designed). But in our relationships and experiences with others, I wonder when friction is good.  And if it is good, it’s probably the exception, not the rule.

Let me give you a concrete example of friction that we found in JibberJobber. It didn’t take to much effort to find this friction… we even had help from users who emailed us things like “uuuuugh!” and “yuuuuuuck!” and “heeeeelp!”  I’m specifically talking about the experience you have when you click on the Import/Export link, under Contacts.  Most of the time people click this link to import their contacts from LinkedIn (or Outlook, or wherever). This is what they say, after clicking the link:

jibberjobber_friction_import_export_old_UI

Can you tell what you are supposed to do? The main problem I see when I put on my UI/UX goggles is that there are too many things to choose from.  You have the main menu (10 or 11 options), gray tabs (11 options), the link on the right, the icons on the bottom…  you have  LOT to look at.  Some people ignore all that and find the Choose File button, and go from there. Honestly, it’s not that hard to do… but there is too much FRICTION.  Too many choices.  Distractions.

Just like our communication, when we are unclear.  We give people too many choices (when we want them to do only one thing, like call us, or go to lunch with us), and we insert too many distractions.  It seems like it’s human nature to distract the person we’re trying to communicate with.  STOP DOING THIS.

Okay, back to JibberJobber… we’ve been working on redoing the import experience… and here is the new page (which you should see in the next few days):

jibberjobber_friction_import_export_new_UI

Of course we still have the main menu (blue bar), but most of the superfluous stuff was moved to a collapsible box on the right.  Note the little arrow icon on the top-right of that box – click that and the box collapses, reducing all that noise.

It’s clear where you are at in the process… you are on step 1.  It’s also clear what Step 2 is all about, and what Step 3 is all about. The friction has been reduced.

This seemingly simply project took hours of design time (to analyze, come up with alternative ideas,  weigh pros and cons of ideas, and prepare communication to the dev team, and then many more hours (weeks, really) for the dev team to clean things up, reengineer the process, etc.

Don’t think that a very, very clean web design (or any design) is the result of a whimsical thought and a few minutes of effort and work.  Of course, sometimes that can happen.  But think about the difference between Yahoo’s homepage and Google’s homepage.  I remember sitting in a computer lab in college, and going to the page I always started with: Yahoo.  It was THE de facto landing page. It had news, weather… all kinds of things that you should want when you fire up the internet.  Then, someone said “you should start at Google.com.”  Goo-what?  What is that?  So I went there. And all I saw was one search box and one button.

How could one search box and one button replace the ultra-useful information that Yahoo offered?  Who came up with this too-simple idea?  Apparently it was Marissa Mayer… she was the brains behind the simple page at google.  What did she do?  She identified why people came (to find something) and reduced EVERYTHING ELSE.  No friction. The page was fast to load, and delivered exactly what you wanted: the ability to type something in and get results.  No distractions. No noise.  Simple, and delivering exactly what the inherent promise was.  (It’s funny to note that she was responsible for that brilliant move away from what Yahoo had set up, defining what our internet experience should be… and now she is the CEO of Yahoo :p).

By now you probably get the idea of simplifying, reducing noise and friction.  You are bought in.  The thing I want you to realize is that the process of getting to a good, clean place is not as simple as you might think.  Put thought and effort into it.  When you come up with a simplified message, you can help many more people understand you, and how to help you.  And that effort is worth it.

mark_twainLet’s end with some quotes attributed to Mark Twain:

“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.” (reference)

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” (reference)

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”(reference)

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Simple Example of Branding: Ethics & Enron

October 19th, 2015

I’m doing a little research on business ethics, and I type “understanding business ethics” into Google.  Look at the unfortunate results:

enron_ethics

Isn’t that sad?  We all know that Enron is not the example of good or positive ethics.  It’s THE example of ethics-gone-wrong.

Enron will forever be the posterchild of bad ethics.  How to ruin tens of thousands of lives, careers, retirements, families, etc.

This is called branding, and it’s very powerful.

I guarantee that YOU have a brand.  The people you’ve worked with have brands.  You might have even contributed to their branding!

Is your brand positive?  Is it neutral?  Is it negative?

Instead of just having a brand applied to you, you can strategically work on your branding!  Personal branding is not a fad.  It was even around before the phrase was (think: reputation, or reputation management).  It’s not going anywhere.  How others perceive us can play a huge role in our career success.

What are you doing to have the brand you want, so you don’t end up being associated with something horrible (or even something not as positive as you want), like the example above?

If you are interested in this, check out the Developing a Killer Personal Brand course on Pluralsight, which you can access for free (here’s how).

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How to Get Your Next Promotion (or job): New Pluralsight Course

September 22nd, 2015

My newest Pluralsight course is live, and you can get access to it for free (if you watch it, you’ll get another week of JibberJobber premium added to your account – see the video at the bottom of this post to learn how to get free access).

How to Get Your Next Promotion is designed to help individuals be more proactive about their careers. As a hiring manager, and a manager of developers, I would love for my employees to take this course.  Why?  Because this course encourages them to be more serious about improving themselves so they are promotable. That self-improvement will only help my team be more successful.

Obviously, this course is totally applicable for job seekers as well as those who are currently employed.

Here’s the link: http://www.pluralsight.com/courses/your-next-promotion

Description and modules: This course is designed to help you whether you are interviewing for your next promotion this week, or you are planning on a promotion in the next year or two. The modules are:

  • Your Career: Where You Are and Where You Want to Go (31 mins)
  • The Plan: How to Get There (28 mins)
  • Soft Skills: How to Prepare for Your Next Role (28 mins)
  • Hard Skills: How to Prepare for Your Next Role (20 mins)
  • Where Do We Go from Here? (17 mins)

Want access to this, and my 20 other courses?  Want to get a week of JibberJobber premium every time you watch any of my courses?  Check this video out:

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“Vets are not qualified for anything…” (from a recruiter)

September 1st, 2015

I love straight talk from recruiters.  Here’s a snippet from a conversation last year:

“Vets are not qualified for anything…  and that is why they aren’t finding jobs.”

He said “there is a lot of prejudice.”

Now, before you get all mad at me, or the recruiter who said this, realize that this is the impression that a gatekeeper to your next job has of veterans.  It’s the general prejudice, bias, and stereotyping that happens to everyone: millenials, religous people, etc.  It is likely happening to YOU right now.

The answer is not to hate on the guy who said this.  The answer is to change the perception.

How are you going to do that?

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job title, keywords or company
city, state or zip jobs by job search

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Job Seekers MUST Understand the Difference Between Status and Brand

June 24th, 2015

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in the last nine years since I’ve lost my job and communicated with thousands of job seekers is a misunderstanding of who they are.  Too often people think “I’m unemployed,” and that label needs to be their brand.  For example, when I had a job, my introduction was:

“I’m Jason Alba, the General Manager of this company.”

Then, when I lost my job, it changed to:

“I’m Jason Alba, and I’m…. uh… uh… In transition?  Unemployed?”

However you say that new thing, let me suggest that it is said WRONG!!!  I know we are used to having a title, and a professional identity, but this new thing is not our title and it is not our professional identity!

Here’s a simple analogy to show you why: Let’s say your neighbor is a master carpenter. You’ve seen his work, and he is amazing.  You can say: “My neighbor is a carpenter.”

But, what if your neighbor has all of his tools stolen, and he can’t work until he buys new tools?  Is he still a carpenter?

Or, what if your neighbor gets chicken pox or cooties, and can’t work for at least a week.  Is he still a carpenter?

YES, he is still a carpenter!!!

His status is “not working,” for the moment.  I actually call this his temporary status.  But “not working” is not his brand**.

Some people think that when they are in transition they are unemployed.  They don’t understand that is a temporary status, and they begin to believe the lie that they are “professionally unemployed.”

Please realize the difference between your brand (including skills, competencies, etc.) and your temporary status.

With this information, you should network differently.  Are you an out of work product manager?  Break that down to status (out of work) and brand (product manager).  You don’t have to wear the out of work like it’s a badge of honor or a badge of shame.  It’s simply a temporary status.

Now, go out and communicate better, and more accurately, with your network!

** I use the word brand loosely here, since I don’t think a job title is a good way to brand… but for the purpose of this article, it’s good enough.

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GenY and Millennials: Illusion vs. Reality of How Cool You Are

June 15th, 2015

Last week I reposted Gen Y Sounds Like a Bunch of Entitled Whiners (well, not so much anymore). I’m not trying to kick a hornet’s nest but I saw this image on Facebook right after it posted (original link):

beyond_millennials

So understand that this is a survey… and who knows how honest the people were in the survey. Let’s assume with over 6,000 people responding, it’s fairly accurate.

What does this mean?

Millennials think they are good with people… but HR pros (not an authority by any means, they just happen to be in a role where they might kind of see Millennials (or have read an article about them), think that they stink with people skills.

Millennials think they are okay with technology, and HR Pros assume they are excellent at technology.  As an IT person, my position has been this (and the 35% from Millennials kind of agrees): “Being good at multi-tasking video games, netflix, and a smartphone, doesn’t mean you are a technologist.”  I think Millennials understand, better than HR, that being tech-savvy might be more about system and database design, programming, etc. than buying the latest iphone.

Millennials say they are extremely loyal to their employers (I’ll say 82% is extreme, in today’s world!), while HR says NO WAY, no one is loyal. I’m surprised that Millennials think they are so loyal.  I’m not surprised that HR doesn’t think so, because that’s what they hear at every conference, and read in every article.

Millennials think they are not very fun-loving… while HR think they are at least twice as much as Millennials think.  I think Millennials are hard on themselves here… but maybe I’m too old to know :p

Another major discrepancy… Millennials think they are really hard workers.  HR says that is laughable.  Like, guffaw laughable.

I think there are problems on both sides… but if you are a Millennial and want to break out of the brand that is not hard working and not loyal, you better work on your personal brand!

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Getting a Better LinkedIn Profile Image

June 4th, 2015

You might have seen this post that was all over Facebook a week or two ago: New Research Study Breaks Down “The Perfect Profile Photo”

I thought it was going to be fluffy, but it’s really, really good.  I agree with almost everything, except I think you should zoom in more on the head, rather than have a belly-button-and-up shot.  That’s just my gut reaction… they are the ones with the data.  I’ll still recommend zoom in, though. I think their examples of “zoomed in (face only) is perhaps TOO zoomed in.

Anyway, great article, very informative, and it proves you can have an effective Profile image without paying big bucks … although I will say that a professional photographer with experience in profile images can do wonders.

I like how the breakdown in this post is trying to determine how different characteristics of a photo will impact how the viewer perceives your competency, how likable you are, and how influential you are.

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Optimizing Your Email Signature

May 28th, 2015

When I speak, I talk about a “personal branding secret weapon,” which is your email signature.  It’s a secret because even though we all can have an email signature, many of us don’t, or we mess it up.  And, it’s a secret because even though people see our signature all the time (or, every time they read our emails), they don’t think “oh, that’s a personal branding ploy!”

I’ve talked and blogged about this a lot over the last few years.  You can see some great links below.  In this post, I want to boil my thoughts down to help you optimize your email signature.  I could critique email signatures and go into more depth, but these are the four things I want you to know.  Note that I go into this in my Developing a Killer Personal Brand course on Pluralsight, which you can get for free (and if you watch it, you can get free premium upgrade on JibberJobber).  See the short video at the bottom to see how that works.

First, have a clean, clear, usable name.  If your name is Robert, but NO ONE calls you Robert, then put Bob.  Or Bobby.  Or Rob.  But if no one calls you Robert, don’t put Robert!  Also, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, don’t put your middle initial.  Your email signature is not a government contract… put what you want people to call you!  Nothing more, nothing less.

Second, have what you might call a tagline, or a value statement.  This is a jargon-free, cliche-free line that says what you do, or what value you bring to the table.  A job title is not typically the right thing to put here, unless you are comfortable assuming (or, taking upon yourself) that every stereotype that is associated with that title, then you should not use the title.  Instead of Product Manager (which can probably be interpreted ten different ways), how about something more simple and to the point, like “I help companies take something from idea to product, and share it with the world.”  Okay, that’s kind of lame, but it’s different than a title.  Realize that coming up with a short, impactful tagline could take a lot more time than you think… but it’s time well-spent!

Third, have a link, or a call to action.  I have at least six websites I *could* point you to. But there is only one I want to point you to, which is JibberJobber.com.  This is my business.  This is what I do for a living.  This is my passion.  Every once in a while, I might point you to another site, but it depends on who you are (the audience) and the purpose of the message.  Combined with your tagline, this link or call to action invites the reader to take the next step, learn more, etc.

Fourth, consider not having anything else.  Every single character or pixel beyond that has the potential to distract from your brand messaging.  Don’t put fax numbers or street addresses… don’t put a quote from some smart person from 100 years ago, don’t muddy up your signature with a cute drawing of a turkey, or rainbow colors.  Yes, I’ve seen all of these things, and they are all distracting.  More is not more.  More can discourage people from reading any of your signature.

Here are some links that you might like:

Want to watch the Developing a Killer Personal Brand course for free? Watch this video to see how to get access to this, and many more courses.  No credit card required.

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Fighting Stereotypes In The Job Search

May 20th, 2015

Quick, what are the first stereotypes that come to mind for these five labels:

  1. Software programmer
  2. Republican business owner
  3. Democrat who volunteers time
  4. Person with bad spelling on her resume
  5. Female driver

What are the five things that came to mind?  Perhaps it was:

  1. nerdy, not good with social skills, sometimes rude
  2. greedy capitalist
  3. cat lover who puts cats, trees and stuff like that in front of human needs
  4. unqualified and not smart or caring enough to deserve this job
  5. distracted, aloof

Now, I’m not saying that the people from the first list always, exactly, or ever match the descriptors in the second list.  But….

You see, our world is rife with generalizations, titles, categories, stereotypes.  We like to take something complex and simplify it… and have a name for it.  We like to say “he is ______” and then everyone can say “ooooooh, that explains everything. I get it now.”

It’s like when I was talking to a recruiter and he asked me about my education. I said I got a CIS degree and an MBA, and he said “oh, I know everything about you.  People like you are a dime a dozen.”

Yep, he said that.

Externally I’m sure I just looked at him… internally I was really quite bothered (furious would be too strong of a word).

I had been stereotyped, categories, generalized.

I thought “I’m so much more than that!”  Let me talk with you for a while, whether that’s five minutes of five hours, and you’ll learn that I’m not the dime-a-dozen CIS/MBA kid!

The world is full of quick-thinking categorizers (as a blogger, I’m entitled to make up words.  Wait, did I just generalize all bloggers as pompous word creators?).

I know YOU are a categorizer (which is a lot softer than saying you are biased, a stereotyper, or the very harsh word: a racist).

We all make these quick judgement categorizations in our head.  We meet someone and based on what we take in (see, smell, touch (strength of handshake), etc.) we generalize.

We learn about where they are from and make generalizations.

We hear their job title, or where they went to school, or even what state they live in or are from, and make generalizations.

I LOOK AT YOUR BUMPER STICKERS ON YOUR CAR AND I MAKE GENERALIZATIONS!

Our brains are just wired to think this way.  It’s not necessarily right, it’s not necessarily fair, but it’s the way we all think.

So, how do you fight being stereotyped while you are in a job search?  Because we all know that job seekers are, for one reason or another, pathetic, right?  We know that if you were really “that good” then you wouldn’t have lost your job in the first place… right?

Oops, there I go generalizing again.

Okay, here are my thoughts on fighting the stereotypes:

  1. Accept that people will, and do, stereotype.  The biggest bias I hear about in my travels and at my presentations is that of age discrimination.  Here’s what I’ve learned: if you are “older,” it starts around 35 or 40. If you are “younger” in the professional world, it will last until you are about 30.  But trust me, even those who are between 30 and 40 will have age-based bias and discrimination.  IT JUST HAPPENS.
  2. Understand that you can break out of the stereotype.  Sometimes this is easy, but sometimes you will be fighting stereotypes in someone’s mind that are impossible to fight. It might just take sitting over lunch with someone, while they get to know you, and having the right conversation.  Once they know you as a dynamic human, instead of a prejudged (fill in the blank), then you are breaking out of the stereotype.  However, some will not be broken.  Like the woman who said “I will never hire a women in childbearing years.”  Illegal, for sure.  But something had happened to bias her against hiring someone who might have a kid. Fighting that stereotype with that person is a losing battle.
  3. Breaking out of the stereotype takes consistent work and use of tools.  Tools like a blog, where you can wax eloquent about your virtues, your experience, your value add, etc.  Tools like a strong and appropriate LinkedIn Profile.  Tools like a tagline or value statement.  Tools like a catchy or effective business card.  Tools like your choice of clothes, or how you do your hair or makeup.  Word choice, etc.  How you present yourself should be aligned with what your brand is.  Don’t assume that your resume is your (only) branding tool.
  4. You can control what your brand is.  Did you see how we shifted from “stereotypes” to “branding?”  They are pretty much the same thing.  You either have an unintentional brand, usually based on stereotypes and generalizations, or you have an intentional brand, which is how you want others to perceive you.  You need to think about how you want others to perceive you, and then actively work on your messaging, and help them perceive you that way.

These are four ideas to get you pointed in the right direction with taking control of how others perceive you.  I know this can be a lot of work, but it should be who you are. In other words, once you understand this stuff, it shouldn’t feel like it’s a lot of work.  It’s just how you act, what you do.

Once you have broken out of the stereotypes, and your brand is louder than those generalizations, you will have an easier time with all-things-career, including networking, interviewing, switching jobs, etc.

 

 

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Why You Should Work On Your LinkedIn Profile

May 14th, 2015

Today I had a one hour consultation with an executive on his LinkedIn Profile. This is not my $49 profile critique (where I record my critique and send you a link to watch)… this is a $100 one-on-one, about an hour consultation. (if you buy one of these, please put what you are buying in the description!)

There was something I meant to mention to this executive, but I forgot.  I’ll share that with you right now.

During the consultation, I got a feeling of being overwhelmed with everything that he had to do.  While his Profile was pretty good, there was plenty of room for improvement.  I suggested he do a little here, a little there, but not even attempt to do it all in one day or week.  This was the other thing I was going to tell him:

“The process of enhancing your Profile will better prepare you for networking conversations and interviews.  It will help you have a better website, resume, and cover letters.”

Why?

Critically thinking through the things he need to go through would take him to a place that he needed to go to have better marketing communication (written, like a resume, and verbal, like an interview or a network meeting).  This process would bring clarity on what parts of your history become the parts you bring out, as your brand.

You could wing it, like many people do, but going through this process should benefit you in your future communications.

And what you gain from that, I think, is more valuable than the hour we spent on the phone together.

Note: I am not opposed to hiring a professional to write your Profile for you.  I do feel strongly that if you go through the process, even perhaps with the professional writer (many times they do it with you, or they give you forms to fill out), you’ll be better for it.

If you want to get better at LinkedIn, you could buy my LinkedIn course for $50, or you could watch two courses I created on Pluralsight for free.  The courses are:

Here’s how you access these courses, for free (and get JibberJobber upgrade credit for every Jason Alba course you watch):

what where
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JibberJobber is a powerful tool that lets you manage your career, from job search to relationship management to target company management (and much more). Free for life with an optional upgrade.

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