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Fear and Overwhelm

July 27th, 2021

I got laid off in January of 2006. The writing had been on the wall for a while but you know, until it finally happened I figured I’d be hopeful and optimistic.

“We’re going to have to let you go.”

I had no idea how these words would change my life. I found myself, my purpose, my joy and happiness in my career. I love what I’ve been able to make of my career since that horrible, unfair, illogical layoff 15 years ago. The pain was real but it got way, way better.

When I first thought of my job search I thought it was a pretty logical, linear thing. And, actually, it is. There are plenty of exceptions but there isn’t any real magic to landing a job. There was, though, this thing that shocked me to my core. Something I didn’t understand:

EMOTIONS

Or, how emotions would impact my ability to do logical and linear things. I wrote this post towards the beginning of JibberJobber: Depression Clouds Everything. I wrote about the emotional rollercoaster I went through during an interview process in this post: The Job Search Interview Process Is Full of Emotions! I’ve written other posts about emotions during this hard time, but I don’t have to tell you about them. If you are reading this you are intimately aware of the flood of emotions that are getting in your way of an easy and efficient job search.

As you know, I’m a proponent of multiple income streams.  Recently my wife and I decided to jump into the deep end on a new income stream. I’d be lying if I didn’t experience an immense amount of fear and overwhelm. But, here we are. Ready to risk. Ready to work. Ready to do the hard stuff. Anticipating blood, sweat, and tears.

“Where there is no risk, there is no reward.”

The job search is risky. It’s scary. I get it. Been there, done that. It’s not fun. Even when things are going well the emotional rollercoaster is overwhelming. But you do it. I did it.

Or, you start a business, like I did. You don’t even want to know how hard it was the first few years, or how much money we put in. But it started an entrepreneurial journey I couldn’t have imagined.

Do what you need to do, even through confusing emotions. It will be worth it. And I’m guessing you are stronger than what you think you are.

 

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5 of My Pluralsight Courses I Wish Everyone Would Watch (and why)

July 19th, 2021

I have 36 courses in Pluralsight… kind of. Two are retired and “one” is a 6-session job search course. I started in 2012 with a LinkedIn course and have done many job search, career, soft skills, and professional development courses in the last 9 years. I’ve spent the last year and a half updating courses, and have a few more to update.

For years I’ve recommended various courses to various audiences, whether that was on this blog, in a live presentation, or on social media. I’ve had to think “what are the two or three courses I would really recommend to this audience?” This morning I had a similar thought, but instead of “to this audience” it was more “to anyone.” So, without further ado, here are the top five I’d recommend… and why:

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Hands down, this one impacted me the most. I went into this course thinking “okay, what is this emotional intelligence stuff? Is it fluff, or is there real substance here?” When I was done I thought “if everyone watches this, and starts to implement just one or two of these ideas, we could change the world.”

Literally, change the world. Becoming more empathetic, understanding ourselves better, striving to understand others better… these are things that really can change the world. First, by changing ourselves, and being better to ourselves, and then being better with others around us. Can you imagine how much better your workplace would be if you had a boss with high emotional intelligence? What if YOU had higher emotional intelligence?

I set myself on a lifelong journey of improvement, and I invite everyone to join me. This course was a turning point for me.

Becoming a Better Listener

This is my most popular course, with 629 ratings and over 300 comments in the discussion area. I honestly had no idea it would resonate with anyone. I remember getting ready to dive into this course thinking “come on, we all know how to listen!” I was wrong. I learned a lot while I researched for this course, and have since learned a lot from the comments in the discussion area. Listening is a soft skill we take for granted but could usually improve. The thing that stands out the most to me, after all these years, is learning more about “active listening,” and the tactics that go into real active listening.

I will try to improve my listening skills for many years to come. This is a life-long journey.

Working and Communicating with Different Personalities

This course was fun to put together, and gave me a chance to really dive into the Myers-Briggs model. But don’t let Myers-Briggs get you down… while super popular in the 1900s, there are other assessments that corporate America seems to favor. Regardless of which assessment you use, or gravitate towards, the idea is simple:

We have different personalities, and even so, we can work together.

I have been frustrated by people at work. People who think and work differently than I do. It’s frustrating for someone with a lot of energy to go into a meeting with people with little energy, and vice versa. It’s frustrating for people who talk and make decisions quickly to work with someone who is more methodical, and likes to think deeply before responding. It’s frustrating when they are your boss, or when you are their boss.

What I’ve learned is that these differences don’t mean that we necessarily dislike one another. Differences don’t mean that we are right and they are wrong, or they are right and we are wrong. Understanding differences in how we think, act, react, communicate, make decisions, are motivated, etc. are important to understand. I’m reminded of a quote I heard from someone I worked with years ago: “If knowledge is power, then knowledge of human nature is a super power.” I love that concept… notice each of these three courses I listed all dive deeper into knowledge of human nature.

One more thing… I think it’s absolutely critical that we, ourselves, understand our own personalities and tendencies. When we understand ourselves, and those around us, we have a better chance of higher workplace satisfaction, performance, etc.

Developing Your Personal Brand

I am a nut for personal branding. If I heard about it before 2006 I don’t remember. But in 2006, during My Big Fat Failed Job Search, I learned that I didn’t have a brand, which meant I spent a lot of time educating people on who I was and why that was important to them. Personal branding changes your self-marketing strategy from a push strategy, where you are constantly educating people on these things, to a pull strategy, where people gravitate towards you because, as they say, “your reputation precedes you.”

Since 2006, when I figured this stuff out, I’ve been hired because of my brand. I’ve had people come to me. I’ve had people vet me online and realize they want to work with me, or could trust me, etc. This is a 180 difference from back in 2006.

Also, in my job search I learned that two things I had neglected, which impacted my effectiveness as a job seeker, were my personal/professional network, and my personal brand. I talk about that in the course that was inspired by hundreds of on-stage presentations, titled Career Management 2.0.

How to Have Difficult Conversations

This course was pivotal for me. There was a period where I wasn’t doing Pluralsight courses, and even took a job because of the time I had freed up. That job lasted 10 months. It was an awesome, amazing job at an awesome, amazing company. One of the books their leadership talked a lot about was on difficult conversations (it might have been Crucial Conversations, I can’t remember). Anyway, I had to have some very difficult conversations (I don’t gravitate towards that), and made a study of this topic. Then, I found myself in a really weird place. On a particular Wednesday in late October I was on a call with Pluralsight talking about picking up my work again, and perhaps doing more courses. The very next day I went into my bosses office for a one-on-one with a particular challenge: My family had planned a two-week trip, but I didn’t have two weeks of vacation. I was hoping she’d let me borrow against future vacation so I could take this epic trip.

Alas, that wouldn’t be an issue because her single agenda item on that Thursday was to lay me off. I got five weeks notice, which was a kind gesture, but it was a bit of a shock. I decided, that day, that I was going to work as hard as I could to get a course out in five weeks (after hours, of course), and launch it before my last day at work. And I did. I focused on this course, this topic, and got to work. This course, which covers such an important topic and and outside of work, was turned in before my last day and launched just a few days later. That’s a fun story, right? It was great to get back into doing courses. But more important, the topic is critical for us to be better people, better communicators, better team members, better leaders, and more happy with ourselves and our work.

There are other courses I could have listed here, but these are the five I picked. I hope you can spend time digging into your own soft skills, career, and professional development. These are ways you can invest in yourself and your future.

If you need a 30 day pass use the Contact Us page and see if we have any left.

 

 

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Should You Have a Portfolio: Regrets of a Single Tweet

June 18th, 2021

Welp. Apparently I tweeted something yesterday that caused a small brushfire on Twitter. Since Twitter has a limit of character you can write, I wanted to take what i’ve learned and expand on it here. First, here’s the tweet:

Seems like a pretty harmless statement. Turns out it was pretty, um. hurtful. This has gotten the worst reaction I could have imagined. It’s funny that having over 1,000 likes on a tweet is usually a cause for celebration, but in this case there are so many people who are so upset about the idea of a portfolio, and they way I worded it, that I kind of wish I didn’t tweet it at all.

So there you go… for those of you wondering “but do I really have to do twitter, to?” No, you don’t. You certainly don’t.

Anyway, I’m not here to lick my wounds. I want to turn this into a learning/teaching moment. First, I’ll deconstruct that tweet, and offer less offensive alternative wording. Then I want to talk about portfolios for any role, not just for front end devs.

Deconstructing and Rewriting the “PLEASE have a portfolio” tweet

I think a different way of writing this that would have been less incendiary would have been:

If you are a front end developer or designer, and you can, consider creating an online portfolio. As a hiring manager I am looking at a lot of criteria as I evaluate candidates. Being able see some of your work, or thoughts, is very helpful.

Whew. If only I had Hermione’s time turner, and I could go back and edit that tweet. Alas, I can’t. And I don’t think I should delete it.

A lot of the backlash I got was that front end developers do not have any control of, or say in, what the front end actually looks like. They are given specs by interface designers who are usually artistic, as well as UX designers, who may not be as artistic but focus on what they want a user to do. A front end developer is not a front end designer, and since they might have no control over what the page or app should look like, they shouldn’t be responsible for the visuals.

This might shock people who were really upset about my tweet, but I agree. And reading through the comments made me realize that the message I want to share about portfolios for job seekers is applicable to people who don’t have anything visual to show. More on that below.

Even though a front end developer might not have control over what a design looks like, they can (and I think should, if they have time) have a portfolio. I think a big part of the problem with that tweet is how people interpret “portfolio.” More on that below.

The next part… my original tweet said, “When I evaluate front end devs it’s one of the first things I look for.” Just like when a recruiter, hiring manager, VC, HR pro, or whoever looks for a resume/CV and/or a LinkedIn profile. I softened that statement to say:

As a hiring manager I am looking at a lot of criteria as I evaluate candidates. Being able see some of your work, or thoughts, is very helpful.

I am a hiring manager. I am also a CEO, and have a lot of responsibilities. I am not a full time hiring manager, and I’ve never been trained in it. I haven’t taken classes, I haven’t worked as a recruiter, and I haven’t read books on how to build your workforce. All the same, I am involved in the decision making process.

I remember reading somewhere that most hiring happens from small and medium sized businesses. I can’t imagine that I am very different than most of the people involved in the hiring process: untrained, doing the best we can, and very time constrained.

There’s a lesson here.

It starts with: the job search (or, the hiring process) is broken. I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that. If you have been in the job search you have an intimate awareness of how broken it is. Just about every bit of the process is broken. If you have been invited to interview a candidate at your work, last minute, with no preparation or instructions, you should have a sense of just one of the broken parts of the job search.

I’m not going to represent all of the hiring managers. But I will say to job seekers that you should do whatever you can (ethical, moral, etc.) to get your next job. And if that means making it easier for a hiring manager to evaluate you, then make it easier!

What if I’m narrowed down my open position to five or ten candidates, and three of them have portfolios? I do as much research as I can about my short-listed candidates. For many, that’s a pretty weak LinkedIn portfolio and a decent-but-looks-like-the-rest resume. If you have a good portfolio, I’ll spend a few more minutes on that than I did on the other candidates… don’t you think that could be do your advantage? If you have a blog, where you talk about the breadth and depth of your skills, don’t you think I’d spend time on that, and learn more about you and what you think?

What is a Portfolio?

A portfolio historically is a visual collection of your work. Artists have portfolios… even if they don’t share them. Photographers have portfolios. Some web designers have portfolios, while others don’t because their clientele won’t allow them to.

Take this away: A portfolio is a communication tool.

I want to go up 30,000 feet. This might sound weird but, here goes: YOU are your portfolio. Everything I see from and about you is part of your portfolio.

Case in point: a lot of designers or front ends went to my Twitter bio, found JibberJobber, and then came back to the comments to comment on how it looked really old (implying probably, that my tweet had no validity because the front end looked outdated). Well, touché, I guess.

But really, my design on JibberJobber is outdated. And people are using that as a part of the whole of Jason Alba to make judgements. This is exactly what a hiring manager does.

For example, regardless of any role you are hoping to interview for, let’s say a recruiter finds your social media account and it is… let’s say, controversial. Here’s an easy one: let’s say you have some very strong political opinions and you share them on your social media account. They will take that into consideration, I guarantee you. You will become the far-left or far-right candidate. They likely won’t document that anywhere, but that will become a part of your brand. If the organizational culture is not aligned with your views, you might find you don’t get a call back.

Discrimination? Perhaps. Infringing on your right to free speech? Maybe. That’s for another blogger to write about. I’m just here to tell you that it is human nature to take all of these things, together, and make decisions. I’ve seen it many times. I have seen it on that fiery tweet I wrote… the one I didn’t mean to be fiery at all.

Anyway, you are the portfolio. Everything you present to me. From the tone of your communications (phone and email) I’ll learn about your communication skills, and perhaps a bit about your attitude. From your LinkedIn profile I’ll learn about your work history (hopefully) and companies that decided to hire you. Someone on that tweet thread said they didn’t need to have one, and have never looked at portfolios of others. In their Twitter bio they listed two major tech companies they worked for… that becomes a part of who you are. I might not see a portfolio from this person but just seeing the two companies, that are very difficult to get hired by, on his work history, speaks loud and clear.

The interview is another way for me to dig into your capabilities. I want to learn about your hard skills and competencies and your soft skills and cultural fit.  If you have  communicated the hard skills through other mediums (resume, LinkedIn profile, blog posts, articles, project examples, etc.) then I’ll likely spend less time digging into that, and can ask more questions that help me understand your soft skills and cultural fit.

Remember, I’m just one of millions of people, and I’m sure there are millions and millions of ways to approach this. This is not the gospel of hiring.

Back to that idea about soft and hard skills. Imagine I have two people I want to interview. One person has somehow quantified their hard skills. I can dig deeper into what they think, their professional breadth and depth, and get a really good idea (or at least make some strong assumptions) about their skills and experiences. I might ask some clarifying questions, just to make sure they were really involved in particular and complex problems, rather than just being on a team but sitting on the sidelines while someone else was the root of the solutions. But once I feel comfortable with their skills I’ll spend more time on other things (soft skills, cultural fit, would I like to work with this person).

Guess what? When there is no way for me to learn about your hard skills before an interview, two things might happen: First, I might not bring you into the interview. Ouch, right?

The reality is I might have a hundred resumes in front of me, and I’m looking for the ones that clearly meet my needs. You might be the best candidate out there but if you are not communicating that, you’ll look like the 70 or 80 other candidates that just don’t have what I need.

I’m sorry if that sounds too “gatekeepery” (another comment on the tweet), but that is how it works. I’m busy. Everyone I work with is busy. I’m not going to play detective on 100 resumes when I find 20 that probably meet my needs. I’ll dig deeper on those 20 than I would on the other 80 that end up in the trash bin.

One of my messages here is: Make it easy for the hiring manager, HR, and other influencers to do their job. 

If that means you have a website like this or this or this or this or this, then do it.

Building on the 30,000 view of “what is a portfolio,” especially for someone who’s work is not visual, what can it look like? I have a few ideas below (under “what if I don’t have time”), but let me ask the question another way:

How can I communicate my professional breadth and depth?

That question gets to the same thing a photographer gets to with their portfolio: showing their work, their capabilities, etc.

As a professional with non-visual proficiencies, expertises, experiences, etc. I strongly encourage you to blog. Groans, moans, wailing and gnashing of teeth, I know. Blogging is a whole other topic. This post is already too long to talk about the what and how to blog. But think about a blog as a tool to communicate your breadth and depth. You don’t have to blog about confidential things (yes, I hear you, person who works for the federal government or big bank). You don’t even have to commit to years of regular blogging. Perhaps you use the blog as a tool to write, say, 20 or 30 posts, to communicate what becomes your technical, non-visual profile.

This, by the way, is perfect for people who are front end developers but NOT designers. You know, the people who are saying, “But I have no control over visual appeal!” They are saying, as developers, they want to talk about code, and logic, etc., and not be judged on the visual appeal of a pretty portfolio.

Why not write about things front end devs should know about? This could be so different from one developer to another… at a small company a front end might be way more involved with UI and UX, whereas at a large organization the front end is given all of the UI and UX specs and implements them. You do you. Figure out your breadth and depth and write about it.

Same for a CFO. Same for a data scientist, a database administrator, a CEO… whatever your role, or the role you aspire to, write about the depth and breadth you can.

Oh wait… you hate to write? Then figure out how you might quantify your breadth and depth. Maybe that is in audio or video format (you could start your own YouTube channel and do short (or long, whatever) videos that help quantify your breadth and depth.

THIS BECOMES YOUR PORTFOLIO.

Imagine this: you are looking to hire someone for a role. You find out they have a YouTube channel, and click over to see they have dozens of videos talking about the experiences and expertise. I know this can come in all shapes and sizes, but what if the videos were titled like this:

How to solve the XYZ problem

Why this solution doesn’t always work

Three things I would have done differently

Get the idea?

Again, respect confidentiality, but you now have four ideas of ways to quantify your breadth and depth: visual, written, audio, video.

If those don’t work for you, I’m sure you could figure something out.

Is a Portfolio Required?

Nope. Big fat nope.

If I am looking for a photographer I’ll want to see a portfolio. However, if I have friends who strongly recommend a photographer, I’ll likely go with their recommendation, especially if my friends are critical thinkers and picky about their photographers.

As a hiring manager I have many data points I’m evaluating against. Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • Timeliness. How responsive are you to my calls or emails? If I message you and don’t hear for two weeks I’m guessing you don’t care about the job anymore.
  • Your background. I hope to get a lot of this from your resume and LinkedIn.
  • How you think. I hope to get this from an interview, if you get to that stage. Hopefully I have smart interview questions that really get into this, instead of a list of “ten best interview questions for [role].”
  • Recommendations from others. The hidden job market is “hey, we have a new opening, do y’all know anyone who should be on our team?” This goes back to the photographer example.
  • How you act. I get this from the interview and perhaps asking around about you. If you are a jerk to anyone, come across as presumptuous, or I hear from asking around that you are not fun to work with, that will influence my decision.

If I were a recruiter I’d probably have a list of 100+ criteria I’m looking at. A portfolio might influence some of those, but it’s not required. And, there are other ways I can get the information I need, if you don’t have a portfolio.

This doesn’t apply to all job seekers. You need to weigh whether it applies to (a) your career field, and (b) to you, based on your time, etc.

Here’s the funny thing… we are preparing an offer letter to someone who didn’t have a portfolio.

What about confidentiality, privacy, NDAs, etc.?  (added 6:30pm)

I forgot this part when I was writing this novel/post earlier today. Lots of people talk about working in a highly confidential area. Actually, I brushed over it with this line, above:

“You don’t have to blog about confidential things (yes, I hear you, person who works for the federal government or big bank). “

So, don’t do a portfolio. Or… listen. I know techies are usually wicked-smart. Seriously, crazy smart. YOU are smart enough to figure this out. What if you change your thinking from “a portfolio is only to show stuff I’ve worked on, like a finished product or something that looks pretty” to “my portfolio is a communication tool to show my professional breadth and depth, even my interests, abilities, and if not breaching confidentiality, some of my work.”

I’m thinking of my friend-who-I’ll-not-name because I don’t want to drag anyone into this mess. My friend has done some very complex and awesome search technology for some massive (you would recognize the names) companies. Do you think he could add screenshots and code to a portfolio? Um… no. Definitely not. If he did, not only could he be in violation of an NDA (and be in legal hot water) but he would be showing anyone who saw it that if you hired him, the intimacies of your projects might be out on the intertubes for everyone to see. He needs to maintain trust from past employers as well as show he is trustworthy to future employers.

So, how could he communicate that he did some wicked-awesome stuff without showing you what he did?

Go ahead… you are smart. Think about it…. think about it… got it? Here’s an idea (I’m sure you could come up with others):

Talk about the problems faced, and the journey to the solutions, without in any way disclosing anything that violates confidentiality. (Watch out… the trick here might be not writing something you shouldn’t without a name while having the employer name on your LinkedIn profile). Be smart about this.

I talk about experiences from my past but I do it in a way that you can’t pin it on an employer.

Think about how you would walk someone through the problems/solutions in an interview. You don’t need the actual product you developed. You could make some generic mockups (imagine a generic mockup of a search function… pretty easy without violating NDA, right?), and then walk through the whole story. You could include some wicked-cool logic in your code, or architecture, or use of SQL, or whatever, right?

When you think about the portfolio as a communication tool and not a photo album, this stuff starts to make more sense.

BONUS: walking through the exercise of doing these things will help prepare you for better interviews.

Why did I tweet the Portfolio tweet?

The why is actually pretty important… it provides context to my message.

I have been looking for a front end developer and recently have been in interviews. One of the people we interviewed showed, on the interview, a couple of projects he had worked on. I immediately thought, “this should already be on a website or CV so I can look at these before the interview.”

If you have something you want to show, something you would show in an interview, maybe you put it in a portfolio? This could be the difference between even making it to the interview stage, or getting cut eliminated before interviews.

What if you just don’t have time to create a portfolio?

Then don’t. Nowhere did I say it was a requirement, or the main thing that influenced my hiring decision, or the only thing. If you don’t have time, then don’t create one.

However, if you can find a few hours, here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Beef up your LinkedIn Profile. This has become the de facto portfolio for many people. It’s accepted as a sort of a portfolio, and it’s the place where many people will look to learn more about you. It should complement your resume, as well as go further into whatever you want a hiring manager, influencer, or decision maker to know about you.
  2. Search for portfolios of people with your job title. If you find any, study them. Look at their wording, their messaging, and their design.
  3. Consider an about.me page. This is an easy way to create a one-pager that can have a very nice visual appeal. If you are a CFO, for example, you could create something that helps me understand your breadth and depth (in a different way, with a different tone, than a resume). Here’s an example… not on about.me, but could easily be transferred to about me, of what a CFO would include. Is this a traditional portfolio? No. She’s not an artist. But it does the job.
  4. Brainstorm your breadth and depth. This could take a few hours, over many weeks, to get good enough. And, it’s harder than you might think. But you should be able to draw some boundaries around what your breadth and depth is, which also means you know what NOT to include. When you have this defined it will be easier to know what you should include (and exclude) from your portfolio.
  5. Create your mini-stories. This is one of the most powerful ideas I’ve come across in the last many years. Basically, you take a character attribute or skill or whatever you want to highlight, and you write a very short story around it. I like the PAR (problem-action-results) formula, which gives you maybe 3 sentences. The story puts some teeth into a claim. Contrast “I am a critical thinker” to “I am known as a critical thinker. One time I was brought into a project that was about to fail and I…”  The mini-story is very short, but much more powerful than just making a claim.

I know you are busy. I feel for all the people who said “I work all day and do family all night.” It’s not like I’m saying any of this stuff thinking you have a ton of time, and not sure what to do about it. But if you can carve out 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, over time you should be able to create the content for your portfolio… whether that is on LinkedIn or about.me or you actually buy your own site and make a page on your own. Not many people will do that, but.. ahem, remember the original tweet was for front end developers, many of whom should be able to do that pretty easily.

The End

So there you go. Portfolios. I hope you walk away from this thinking “I can do this.” And if you don’t want to, or can’t, or don’t need to, then no big deal. Like I said, it’s not THE thing that influences a hiring decision… it is one of many factors. If absent, that could be okay.

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Of Camping and Careers

June 16th, 2021

Two weekends ago all the girls at my house left for a girls weekend, so I grabbed my youngest son and we went camping. It was an epic weekend of exploring some beautiful nature that is close to our house, wondering why we never went to any of these places. I came home and rested, excited to get back to work. Then, I had the opportunity to be a chaperone at a youth camp with my son and his friends, and once again took an extended weekend.

The first weekend of camping my son and I spent hours packing, planning, and shopping. We were well-prepared for our adventures (except the tent we took didn’t have tent poles… oops!). But the next weekend was different. I spent Monday through Wednesday night trying to get a full week of work in, catching up on projects, etc., and then had just a few hours scheduled for prepping for the chaperoning campout. I thought I had everything planned and, for the boys, I did. They had more food than they needed, we had all of our equipment, and it was a great time.

Except… well, in all my planning and prepping for the group campout, I neglected packing for me.

I’m an experienced camper. I’ve been camping since I was young. I pride myself on minimalist camping, where I don’t have to pack a ton of stuff that I never use. So, in my rush to get out the door I grabbed my toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and an extra t-shirt.

Seriously, that’s all I packed for me.  I was so focused on getting the whole camp ready that I neglected packing for me.

No big deal. It was a very hot weekend… and I’d be fine. So I thought.

That night was COLD. I was sitting on a chair chatting and shivering. I wished I had brought a sweatshirt. Instead, I was regretful.

This ties directly into my career experience around 2006. If you are a new reader you might not know that January 2006 was the epic point in my life where I lost my job, had a miserable, failed job search, and eventually came up with the idea for JibberJobber.

You see, I had neglected myself in my career. I took care of my companies, my teams, my products, my projects… I took care of all of those things just fine. But I didn’t pack my sweatshirt for myself. I completely neglected my network and my personal brand.

Just as I sat around chatting with my camp that evening, shivering and regretful, I sat around during my job search wondering why I wasn’t making any progress. It was because I had neglected me.

Look, I love it when job seekers come to JibberJobber, ready to organize and track and follow up.

I love it more when people who are preparing for an imminent job search come, putting in the work before they desperately need it.

My invitation to you is to get serious about your personal brand and your professional network. You can take care of everyone else, but do not neglect taking care of yourself. We’re here for that, and for you.

Let us know how we can help.

camping-june-2021-price-canyon

And just for fun, here’s a picture of some rope swings we explored … hard to find this stuff in the desert!

Mona rope swings

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Internet Job Search Do’s and Don’ts

June 3rd, 2021

Back in the 1900’s you found a job with the help of a newspaper. I lost my job in 2006 and guess what I did? I went to look for a newspaper, to see the classified section! I wanted to compare it to what I would find online.

I only bought one, and quickly realized the small list of jobs posted there were not a fit for me. I switched over to an internet job search, as had the rest of the world. The internet job search can be quite confusing. You have job board aggregators, like Indeed, which somehow compete with regular job boards like Monster. You have sites for salary comparison and sites to give you a peek into what it is really like to work there (like Glassdoor). You have networking sites like LinkedIn, and of course, sites to track your job search activities, like JibberJobber. All the tools and all the advice can get quite overwhelming, which I think is why people find themselves going back to the basics. In this post I will share five do’s and five don’ts of todays internet job search.

Which of the following is an Internet job search “do”?

Do #1: Get your LinkedIn Profile in order. 

This is probably the first, and one of the easiest, things to do. I’ve done tons of LinkedIn consultations over the years and I think I’ve seen one or two where I said, “This is pretty good! You don’t really need to update anything!” Every other profile had some easy-to-fix stuff. I want you to do this first because everything else you do in your job search, from the first networking conversation or applying to a job to the final interview, will likely circle back to your profile. I’ve been in interview rooms (on both sides of the table) where the interviewers have a printed copy of the resume and the top of the LinkedIn profile. I created a course on updating your LinkedIn profile on Pluralsight.

Do #2: FOLLOW UP! 

It’s easy to email multiple someones and apply to dozens of job postings, and then do it again and again. What’s not as easy is to follow up and show people you are actually, really, genuinely interested in whatever your first contact was about. I’ve found that I am busy. If you message me once your email (or call, or voice mail) might get lost in the next five things I’ve got to get to today. Figure out the right amount of follow up before you move on, but I’ll tell you: one contact is usually not enough.

Do #3: Use job boards for research. 

Yes, yes, of course you’ll use job boards to apply for jobs. It’s so easy and enticing to apply to jobs on job boards. Of course, I want you to try to network into those companies and opportunities, too. But this point is about another use for job boards: research. Looking at job postings should give you an excellent idea of where companies are looking to invest. Research through job boards can give you insight into industry trends, company needs, and changes in actual roles. Before you go to an interview, pull five or ten job descriptions for the title you are interviewing for and do a side-by-side comparison. That should give you a better range of vocabulary, expectations, etc. than you’ll get from one job description.

Do #4: Write better emails.

A big part of an online job search is electronic correspondence. This could be emails, text, chat, etc. There are definitely things you could do to communicate better online. A few things that come to mind are, first, be timely. I’m currently communicating with a service professional who is horrible at corresponding. When I send a message and get no reply I think “they don’t really care about my business.” As a job seeker that is definitely not the message you want to communicate. Also, learn to be concise in your communications… say what needs to be said and edit out superfluous stuff. Have a great subject line, and make sure you have a clear call to action.  I talk about all of this in my Effective Email Communication course on Pluralsight.

Do #5: Complement online with offline. 

I did a 100% online job search and it was a failure. There is no single silver bullet in the job search. You need to email, apply, research, network, talk to people one-on-one, follow-up, etc. Much of this can be done online but there’s no good replacement to develop a trusting relationship than phone calls and in-person meetings. Don’t be afraid to meet and talk to others. I know it doesn’t seem efficient but if you could get someone to actually like and trust you, which happens over various touchpoints (or, communications), you can have someone helping you in your job search, giving you referrals and introductions. That can be much more effective than applying for yet another job (and hearing nothing back). I’m guessing a 100% online job search strategy will be lonely, long, and disappointing.

Which of the following is an Internet job search “don’t”?

Don’t #1: Don’t rely exclusively on job boards.

This was easily my greatest mistake. I spent almost all of my time on job boards, looking and applying. A job board strategy has never been the #1 on any “how to find a job” list. Job boards have a place, for sure, but they should not be the bulk of your strategy. Instead of spending more time searching on job boards, figure out who you should network with, then pick up the phone and make some calls until you get to talk to those people. I know this is way scarier than sending emails, but being unemployed for a long time is scarier than picking up the phone.

Don’t #2: Don’t focus on just a few companies, or just one title. 

When I started my job search I had about three or four companies I knew I’d like to work in, and one or two job titles. It wasn’t until two or three weeks later I’d find a title that was new to me, and I was in love. I had been looking for the wrong thing the whole time. It’s hard to know what to look for if you’ve never heard of the title before, of course. I want you to keep your eyes open as you spend time online looking at and for jobs, and have an open mind as you come across titles that you might not have thought about.

Don’t #3: Don’t believe everything you read online.

I’m not talking about the news… I’m talking about jobs. If you were to look for openings at one of your target companies and see none, does that mean there are no opportunities? Most definitely not. Maybe they don’t post jobs online. Maybe they have a few openings but are asking their team who they would recommend. Just because you don’t find something doesn’t mean you should give up. Network into the organization, ask questions, find out what their needs are, and prepare yourself to have the best conversation with decision makers.

Don’t #4: Don’t stop, even if you hear nothing.

The job search can feel lonely, and you might be anxious to hear from people who could and should help you. One of my great disappointments was learning my sense of urgency was very high while the people I talked to had a lot of other things going on. For example, I could have used a job right away, which meant today or tomorrow, while some people I talked with thought right away meant next quarter. You need to keep working, keep trying, even if no one responds. Perhaps learn why people are not responding and change your tactics, but keep working it. You are bound to eventually talk to the right people.

Don’t #5: Don’t think you can throw all of your new skills away when you get your job. 

Once you land you will be tempted to stop networking, stop thinking about and working on your personal brand. I beg you to not do that. My invitation to you is to learn how to really be CEO of Me, Inc. This is your opportunity… to get serious about your relationships, your brand, your tactics, and do them even when you are employed. Help others, give to others, keep your ear to the ground, and pay attention to industry trends. Instead of acting like a job transition is a huge surprise, embrace it. It will be easier to embrace if you have been doing the work that goes into a successful job search. But please don’t stop everything related to career management.

So there you go… 10 ideas to have a better internet job search!

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Step Away from Your Job Search

June 1st, 2021

I recently wrote a tweet about “stepping away.” This is based on a project I was working on, and getting stuck. I could stare at the screen for minutes… er, hours, and make no progress. Or, I could walk away.

I chose to walk away and address it the following day, which inspired this tweet (I’m also including Jacqui’s response/forward):

I am reminded of my Big Fat Failed Job Search, from early 2006. The economy was great, talent was getting picked up quickly, and I was there all alone not even getting replies to emails or applications. I spent hour after hour getting nowhere. It was frustrating and depressing.

I later found myself on a podcast talking to some recruiters. One of them said the average job seeker spent something like ten hours a week on their job search. I said that didn’t sound right to me… the people I met at job clubs were definitely spending more than ten hours a week. I said I spent about ten hours a day, Monday through Saturday (that is 60 hours a week) on my job search. The guy yelled at me, insinuating that I wasn’t being honest, and saying that I was an anomaly.

I left that podcast in disbelief that people in my situation, hungry, desperate, and in need of a new job (and income) would only work on it ten hours a week.

I’m certainly not promoting 60 hours a week. It was exhausting, especially since I wasn’t making any progress. Of course, 60 hours a week of good tactics that were producing results would have been different. I’ve always known I should have done a job search differently… not spent nearly as much time on job boards and done some REAL networking and follow up (which is why I created the Job Search Program system). But one thing I wish I would have done back then was to STEP AWAY.

60 hours of unproductive, depressing work was not helpful.

If I could counsel my younger job seeker self I would say to step away, every day.

Figure out the most important things I needed to do each day, and do them early in the day. Then, instead of restlessly tinkering on job boards, hoping to find something, I’d say go out and do something productive.

Ideally it would be some networking thing… whether that is with a neighbor or on a call with someone I met at a networking event. Call someone, talk to someone, practice your branding pitches, ask how you could help them, develop and nurture a relationship, ask for introductions, learn about titles, roles, companies, opportunities, networking events, etc.

I spent about 100% of my time on my computer and about 0% of my time doing stuff from that last paragraph. Which is why 2006 was the year of my Big Fat Failed Job Search.

Step away and get your other stuff done. I’m sure you have laundry, dishes, maintenance, exercise, reading, etc. that you should do. Somewhere in the back of your brain you have something nagging at you. It sounds like “I really should do this… but…”

My “but” was that I felt I needed to do my job search until I got a job, and then I could get to those other things. Guess what? Neglect will catch up with you. Neglecting a drip could turn into thousands of dollars of water or mold damage. Neglecting pest control could turn into a multi-thousand dollar infestation problem. Neglecting relationships, neglecting your physical health, neglecting your mental health… all of these things come at a cost. Some costs are bearable. Other costs can be overwhelming.

I was in that situation because I had neglected my network and my personal brand. And I paid dearly for it.

I know how emotionally draining a job search is. I know how much anxiety there is. I know.

I also know how important it is to get your work done, and then STEP AWAY.

It’s hard to relax, and to enjoy… but you have to do that. You need to maintain some healthy balance in your life. You will be a better communicator and networker if you have this balance. Read, clean, fix, work, rest, relax, fish, hike… whatever you need to do to get that healthy balance.

Whenever I thought of any of this during my Big Fat Failed Job Search I had one thought:

If I spend time on anything other than landing my next job I am cheating on my family. I’m cheating on my future. 

That was unhealthy, untrue self-talk. If I had a coach, they would have told me to get off the computer. Ten hours a day of fiddling was not good. I’d much rather do one hour a day of very strategic techniques than 10 hours a day of fiddling. That’s the gist of the Job Search Program. And this is my formal invitation to you:

STEP AWAY!

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JibberJobber is 15 Years Old Today!

May 15th, 2021

Well, we did it!

What is “it”? Maybe it is just staying alive for the last fifteen years. They say most businesses fail in the first few years… and we made it past that.

Maybe our “it” was that we have served over 100,000 job seekers, helping them organize and manage and track their job search and networking.

Maybe our “it is that we have grown and expanded and integrated other products and services into JibberJobber.

I’ll be honest, though… I don’t think about those things as much as I think about YOU. I think about the one person who we are helping right now. That one person might hit my radar because they email us with a bug complaint, or a suggestion, or they upgrade. I look at your name, and if you tell me, where you are in the world. I think about how your job search might be going, and how we can help. Sometimes we help by doing our job well. Sometimes we help by providing a peace of mind… the only friendly, stable thing in your job search.

I set out to get rich with JibberJobber, but I’ve had to just settle with learning that what we’ve created has helped people in a very low part of their life. And that has provided as much richness to me as I could have imagined.

Here’s to another 15 years!

JibberJobber 15 years

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You Have to Start Somewhere

May 14th, 2021

Years ago (in 2006) I started this crazy entrepreneurial journey. Somehow I caught wind of blogging, and realized it would be a significant part of getting my story out so more people could learn about JibberJobber.

Starting my blog was… scary. I wasn’t sure about the technology, my voice, my tone, what I should and shouldn’t say, etc. I didn’t have anyone editing my stuff (still don’t, obviously ;)), and wasn’t quite sure how to do it right. I was also a little nervous about the commitment, realizing you don’t just write one post and then quit. I was in this for the long haul.

So, I started. I wrote a post… this one:

It’s Blog Time

Actually, looking at it now I realize I said “Its” instead of “It’s”… oops and oh well.

I started. I swallowed my pride, I moved my fears and concerns aside, and I wrote my first post. You can’t have a second post without a first post. In that post I was honest and open. I said I was a normal guy with normal experiences. I was bragging about having accomplished anything (the main reason I was writing was because I couldn’t keep my job – where is the bragging in that?)

You can’t have a second post without a first post.

That is a pretty good line. Neither can you have a second call, or a followup call, without a first call. So make the call. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done.

Once you start you can get on a journey. And when you are on your journey you can experience all the good stuff, and learn from the hard stuff. I realized one day that the journey is what it’s all about. So get on it, enjoy it, and help others along the way. But you have to start.

 

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Job Satisfaction and the Job Search

May 13th, 2021

Tuesday I wrote Some Careers Don’t Go As Planned and said it contains one of my more important messages. I wanted to pick up from the last line:

Find joy, happiness and satisfaction along the way or you might be disappointed when you get to your destination.

How do you find job satisfaction, or satisfaction in your career, when you are unemployed or underemployed? How can you look back on a life where what you did at work wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as you thought and hoped it would be?

Let’s go to another blog post, this one from 2017, titled What Is Your Center? #7Habits #StephenCovey. If you are a fan of the late Stephen Covey you’ll probably remember the part of his book where he talks about centers. I was shocked when I read it, thinking that he was going to say your family, spouse, or religion should be your center.

He also said your work should not be your center. Why? Well… if your work is your center, meaning you derive your self-worth and identity from your work (see the blog post about centers for more), and you get laid off, then what happens to your self-worth and identity??

When your center is your work, your profession, your role within a company, your job title, your income bracket, or anything related to those, you are setting yourself up for some serious life disappointment.

Maybe you are the most amazing worker, the person who the whole organization depends on. But what happens when the company fold overnight? What happen when your leader goes to prison and takes a few others along?

What happens when a natural disaster shuts down an industry segment, or a pandemic (too soon?) means you’ll be sitting on your couch (wondering how to pay for your couch) for the next 15 months?

What happens when you have a stroke, or lose the ability to use your hands or feet or eyes or whatever you need to do your job?

When I spoke at job clubs around the country I could see the “what happens when” in the fear in job seekers eyes. Shock, pain, devastation. Loss of purpose left no room for job, happiness, or satisfaction.

I don’t know what the answer is for you. For me, I’ve tried to find ways to give back to individuals in a meaningful way. This has included mentoring and coaching, as well as teaching and sharing ideas. Believe it or not, this blog is a big part of my fulfillment and satisfaction.

Should you volunteer in organizations that really need help? Should you write memoirs, mentor, or coach? Should you find joy in finally getting your finances under control, or delving into the world or fitness or photography or woodworking?

I don’t know. But I’m not a huge believer in “do what you love and the money will follow.” Nor do I believe that if you do what you love (now) you’ll be happy, or satisfied, your whole career. If you are looking for joy, happiness, satisfaction, or fulfillment, maybe you need to do a job where you make enough so that you can support other interests or hobbies… the ones that give you joy and satisfaction.

I’m not here to rain on anyone’s career. I’m just saying that if you have your career/profession be your center, you could waiting for a disaster.

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Some Careers Don’t Go As Planned

May 11th, 2021

In 2019 I wrote this post:

Some Poems Don’t Rhyme

If you are a skimmer (like me) you will miss the point of the post. But I think it’s one of the more important messages I can share.

My post starts out talking about poetry, and how poetry is just different. Some poems rhyme, some don’t.

Some careers go as planned and some don’t. I think one of the most important ideas is that if your career hasn’t gone as planned, you are not a failure. I think it’s easy to feel like a failure, comparing where you are at with where you thought you would be. But every different job, career, role, salary, etc. is just a stepping stone. As long as you are still stepping, there is still more of your career future to write. In my post I wrote:

I had planned my career decades ago. It was going to be linear, structured, predictable, safe, and go according to plan.

Now that I’m 45 I look back and my career has been none of that. It has been squiggly, random, back-tracked a few times, holding my breath many times, and just not really sure of anything.

But somehow, someway, it all worked out.

I’m a planner. I respect planners. But I’m here to tell you that what you should plan for is change. Plan for flexibility. Plan for Plan B and Plan C and Plan Z. Plan to trust others, and be let down. Plan to go all-in and have it all fall apart. Plan to be out of work for months, maybe years. Plan to adapt.

Your career plan will look a lot more like a Haiku than a roses-are-red.  If what you are looking at is unconventional, untraditional, then how would you plan and prepare for that?

Learn. Learn new stuff. Excel at what you do.

Embrace change. Love change. Be excellent at change.

Find opportunities. Sniff them out and act on them.

Be a student of careers and income streams.

Be financially savvy, and don’t limit your options because you overspend and are over-leveraged.

Some poems don’t rhyme, and it’s okay. They can still be beautiful.

Some careers don’t go as planned, and it’s okay. You can still enjoy the ride, and have an awesome ending.

Comparing to others can be destructive. Comparing to what your 12 year old self thought you were going to be when you grow up can be destructive. I invite you to enjoy your journey, and keep working on your journey. And in the end you might wind up with something that wasn’t linear, or didn’t rhyme, but it will have been your journey.

Find joy, happiness and satisfaction along the way or you might be disappointed when you get to your destination.

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