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What is “degrees of separation”?

July 17th, 2006

LinkedIn has helped popularize the concept of Degrees of Separation, but I understand that there are a lot of people that don’t quite get it, or the importance of it. I was chatting with a friend of mine on Saturday and he began to talk about degrees of separation that had nothing to do with the way that I understand it. So, for the benefit of job seekers, I’ll attempt to explain what it is and why it is important.

The concept of degrees of separation is simple – here is an example: My neighbor John is 1 degree of separation from me. I tell him that I’m looking for a job at Intel, he says he knows someone (Eric) there, and offers to introduce me. Eric is now 2 degrees of separation from me – as he was introduced to me by John – who is 1 degree of separation from me.

So basically, everyone that you know or meet personally, not through someone else, will be 1 degree of separation from you. If you they introduce someone else to you then that person – a new network contact – would be 2 degrees of separation from you. And so on and so on. In JibberJobber when you add a new network contact there is a place where you indicate how you met this person. This will automatically calculate the degrees of separation for each person in your network.

Ok, that is pretty simple. Here are two reasons why it is important:

First, “the experts” say that you won’t get job leads from contacts that are 1 or 2 degrees of separation from you. In other words, it is not common that your best friend or family or whatever will get you a job lead. However, they may know someone (2nd degree) that knows someone (3rd degree) that knows someone (4th degree) who would have a job lead.

Second, if I were your job coach and we met weekly, I’d want to know how your network is expanding. You may meet a lot of new people, which is great, but you have to ask people that you already know (all of these 1st and 2nd degree people) who they know, and begin to build depth. A savvy career coach should be able to notice right away whether you are focusing in the right direction or not (some people need to focus on width while others need to focus on depth).

The point is, you need to know what your network looks like (how wide and how deep) because if you are focusing on going wide (getting more 1st degrees) and not going deep at all (3rd and 4th degrees) then it may take longer to get to someone that has a job lead… so say the experts :) Of course what you do with each contact is a completely different topic…

One quick note before I end this post – and this is just my opinion – just because you have a connection with someone in LinkedIn that has 15 connections, that does not mean that YOU have all of those connections also. I think that this would give you a false reading of your network. Don’t use JibberJobber to just list all of your network contacts – put real contacts in when you have some kind of relationship with them, or when you intend to begin a relationship.

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He would cry…

July 14th, 2006

I was talking with a good buddy of mine, and I thought the conversation was hilarious.  It went like this:

Me: If you got fired today, what will you do?
He: cry

Me: How long will you be out of work?
He: About a month I guess (my note: this is what I thought also!)

Me: Will you be able to replace the amount you are making now?
He: Hardly

How would you answer these questions, right now?

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Kudos to me!

July 14th, 2006

ok, this is way off-topic, but I have to share it with someone, so I’ll share it with you!

I have been checking my site pagerank and alexa stats weekly (daily is not healthy) and it was pretty stale. But today I checked and made huge progress on Alexa (in the ranking) and my pagerank jumped by 5 points!! Is that cool or what? I’ll plead ignorance on how I did it, but all the same, YAHOO!!

not too shabby, eh?

Am I a SEO expert yet? :p

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Unemployment Contradictions

July 14th, 2006

This morning I read about my state (Utah), with an unemployment rate 1 point lower than the national unemployment rate, needing to make accommodations for the new workforce – in short, it is a job seeker’s market. And everyone thinks that it is going to stay this way for a while, that this is not a short-term deal.

Even recruiters that I talk with tell me about how tight the job market is, and how finding talent is and will be very difficult for years to come.

That is the great news.

But what’s up with this Intel announcement to layoff 1,000 MANAGEMENT jobs?? That is going to be a lot of families impacted. Maybe they’ll be absorbed right into the great economy.

Maybe?

Many won’t – it may be their first time in a serious job search and they may be as ill-prepared as I was. Here is a site that tracks some of the layoffs – it is not comprehensive but it gives you a feel that it is common practice! Moral of the story is you are always vulnerable. If you don’t believe that come with me to my network meetings on Monday and Tuesday mornings and I’ll introduce you to some extremely high-talent, high earning (well, previously high-earning – they are out of work now!) execs and managers that are finding out what “its a job seeker’s market” really means.

Check out this little summary of articles from today on MSNBC… in the business section – isn’t that a lot of articles on layoff and cuts in such a great economy?

My take on this whole thing is HOORAY for the great economy, and all the companies that are looking for top talent. But there are still going to be people that aren’t picked up right away, and find themselves unemployed for extended periods of time.

Have you ever heard of the starfish story? The one where the boy is on a beach, walking amongst tens of thousands of starfish and tossing some in the ocean… and old man walks by and basically says “you can’t make a difference” and the boy tossed another one and said “I made a difference to that one.”

I don’t care how good the unemployment rate is – in my state it is about 3.5%. That means there are 50,000 – read fifty thousand – people that are unemployed. Sure there are the multi-generation folks but there are some very highly talented folks that are out of work.

Imagine yourself as a starfish, on the beach, and there are only 50,000 of you (as is the case in utah). That isn’t very many, it could be millions. But it sure does suck to be one of the 50,000, doesn’t it? Is it your fault you are here? Was it preventable? What do you do now?

If you think it is a job seeker’s market try out your luck. But if you have ever been seriously out of work you should cringe at the idea of again being “unemployed for extended periods of time.”

So…. (shameless plug coming…) get an account on JibberJobber and begin to use it. Start to actively manage your own career, and if the pink slip comes you won’t be unprepared.

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what is a “coach”?

July 13th, 2006

I’ve had a few conversations with “coaches” over the last few months as I’ve talked with them about JibberJobber.  I’ve never really talked with one before, and only had assumptions about what they do.  And I thought that needing a coach would be some sign of weakness :)  No offense to coaches, or the clients, I doubt I’m the only one to have this thought.

Anyway, as I’ve talked to them I realize that not all coaches are the same.  And most of them will even tell you that.  But I have learned some stuff about coaching that I get to share here because… well, this is my blog!

And, I’ll refer to a coach as “he/his” with the understanding that many coaches that are talked with are women.

Each coaches has his own “flavor” based on his background, experiences and passions.  Most coaches have some kind of training or accreditation, and subscribe to some kind of proven methodology.  But the coaching service will come from a human being, and with that you will definitely get a feel for who they are.  It may be just what you need, or not at all what you need.

Coaches have a way to see through the crap.  When I talk with them about JibberJobber, and how they would use it with their clients, each of them shares their feelings about meeting with a client and getting fed a line of BS – and they coach knows it!  So if you get a coach, be honest with them – otherwise you will be wasting a lot of money and fooling no one.

Not all coaches are about quantifiable accountability (I had to write something that sounded sophisticated).  This surprised me but I’ve had some coaches say that the type of data in JibberJobber isn’t what they care about – that is more along the lines of what a career counselor would care about.  The coach deals with higher-level issues.  That is what two or three coach told me… but many others do want the data because…….

Coaches should hold your feet to the fire. That is my personal opinion – but I realize that some people take advantage of a coach to help them re-evaluate their lives – and this is a lot more on the soft side than then data side.  But if you know a direction, one of the huge roles a coach might play is something like an “accountability cop”.

Coaches have specialties.  Many coaches have done life planning but not career coaching.  You need to know what your coach specializes in, and what experience they have in what you think you need.

I strongly believe that a coach will help you through a job transition better than doing it on your own.  Most people need someone that they are accountable to, especially when you are unemployed and no one really expects anything out of you.  Coaches can help you think through issues, in a way that close family or friends might not be able to.  They can help make sure that you are on the right track, and stay on the right track.  They provide a consistency that you won’t get through a “friend” who will be distracted from their own personal issues and not always ready to spend some intense time with you.

So the question is, how do you find the coach?  What happens if the coach you choose isn’t what you thought, expected, or need?  more on that later :)

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When should you look for a job?

July 12th, 2006

I’m going to be speaking tonight to a groups of volunteers interested in helping people become or remain self-reliant with regard to money, careers, etc.  I was invited to speak because of JibberJobber, of course, not because I’m so great at looking for a job :p

As I prepare for the presentation I had some thoughts that I wanted to post here – all in line with “when is the best time to look for a job”… which is, of course, when you don’t need one!

So, if you aren’t looking for a job, or don’t need one, what should you be doing to have true “job security?”  Here are a few steps that everyone that is fat and happy in their job should be doing, right now:

  1. Take a personal job seeker inventory. sit down for about an hour and pretend that you have just lost your job.  What are you going to do RIGHT NOW?
    1. How much money do you have stashed away (which will translate into when exactly do I need to have a paycheck coming in again)?
    2. Where is that resume, and is it missing anything (your latest positions, experiences, successes, etc.)?  Do you have a “master resume” that you can copy and paste from.
    3. What recruiters/headhunters do you know *that know you*?  You need to call them right away and let them know you are now available.
    4. What networking/association meetings will you go to, and when are they, so you can begin networking?
    5. How are you going to apply to job boards, which ones (are there specific industry boards that you should be on?)
    6. Who are you going to call, and how many people will you call each day, to kick your networking into high gear?
    7. When you call people, what are you going to say?
  2. Sit down with someone, casually, and discuss your preparation with them.  It should be someone that is in a position at least on your level, preferrably higher.  A lot of times an employment counselor (or coach, if you are senior enough) is a great resource because they aren’t coming at this with emotions, and have a good way of being tactfully blunt.
  3. Going back to the first point, get all of those items in order.  It will take work, but it is better to have it ready and prepared now than to have to burn the first week or two getting it all together.
  4. Go to a networking event – put on by an association or something like that.  There are tons of them, and the relationships that you develop can be invaluable down the road.  This is a great time to practice your elevator pitch – it is better to practice it here than in your first interview!
  5. Take someone out to lunch once a week.  This is just an informal chat session with a purpose.  You need to strengthen your network relationships NOW, not when you most need them.
  6. Check out Monster and other boards once a month or so to see what jobs are being posted for.  In my last job I would frequently check out competitor’s job postings which would give me information on where they were at in their company, and what strategic decisions they had made.
  7. Develop relationships with some recruiters.  It might be annoying if they call you often asking “who do you know…” – they are just looking for leads to fill a position.  Take it as a compliment that they contact you, and know that when the time comes you’ll be able to call them and they will already know you – especially if they have helped you.
  8. Mentor someone in their career.  Thinking about and helping others in their career moves, transitions, improvement, etc. will be beneficial to you during your career.

When you are happily employed, the prospect of being unemployed is like the big fat pink elephant in the break room that no one talks about.  It could happen to anyone, at any level, at any time.  You can prepare now, or burn a week or two of your job search later.

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CHiMBY – to get past the information overload

July 11th, 2006

I came across a new website that takes advantage of new technology to provide a great resource to job seekers. Granted, I don’t think that we need MORE articles and information, because there are already zillions of articles about what to wear to an interview (I guess some people don’t quite get it)… but isn’t it a pain to try and find good information? You know there are lots of repositories – a school career center (there are only like 3,300 of these in the US and Canada), outplacemetn firms, etc. Lots and lots of articles and advice. And Google just doesn’t seem to do the job when you are looking for job-search information.

CHiMBY is a “vertical” search engine for job seekers. It is cool because what you search for should always return something relevent to a job search, and from many “authorities”… I put in a search phrase (“organize” – what else would I search for?) and found some cool new sites and blogs that I wasn’t even aware of – and spent about 2 hours going through those sites.
So, go check it out… here is their logo (I need more color in my blog :) )

We are a CHiMBY recommended career advice site

If I were to have to pick one favorite resource to learn things about a job search I’d have to pick CHiMBY, just because the owners have already filtered the list down to job-search sites. Very cool.

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new stuff from last week

July 10th, 2006

This last week’s updates included a number of things considered to be “housekeeping”, aka just little clean-up things here and there.  Two noteable things include (and lots of other stuff that you might not care about – but is still important):

  1. on the main landing page, once you login, there is a link right below the main menu, on the right, that allows you to switch your landing page between “dashboard” and simple “views”.  I realize that many people are non-computer users and having all of the panels can be a little overwhelming…. so it is up to you how much info is on the front page.
  2. after blogging for a few weeks, I finally put a link to the blog :)  I wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting myself into before I posted it to the world, and last week finally felt comfortable putting the link up.  Feel free to browse through previous posts :p

I’m really excited about the housekeeping from last week as most of it was loose-end stuff that we just kept putting off (most of this stuff has been on my “list” for weeks) for one big reason:  We are now ready for a big, much awaited development.  I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag here, you’ll have to wait until next week – but it is a very exciting development that will add a lot to a person’s job search process.

Cool thoughts for other blog posts this week, check back or get the feeds!  I should be writing every workday – monday through friday!

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What is your identity?

July 7th, 2006

I went to a meeting for job seekers where the speaker talked about regaining your identity.  It was a cool topic as this is something that has really bothered be about being unemployed.  The basic idea is that I went from “Hi, I’m Jason, I’m the VP and General Manager” to “Hi, I’m Jason, and I’m unemployed.”  What a downer.

The speaker talked about the fact that we can’t categorize ourselves as “unemployed”… we have to have a different identity.  This will have a huge impact on how we conduct ourselves, how we interview, how we prospect, etc.  This is a reverse-paradigm shift – you went from a [put job title or proficiency here] to “unemployed” – and now you must go back to the proficiency.  You didn’t get dumber when you became unemployed, did you??

Great topic.  Too many job seekers that I’ve met do not have the right identity.  How to regain it?  I don’t have all the answers, but you really have to make an effort to figure out what your identity should be, and how to convey it.  Are you a business person?  A problem solver?  A facilitator?  A rainmaker?  Whatever it is, make sure that that identity is what comes out when you meet people.

One suggestion was to get business cards for yourself – you can get free ones from various places on the web… since it is Friday, and by posts are too long anyway, I’ll stop with one thougth.  I wanted business cards for JibberJobber but I wanted them to stand out from the crowd.  Here is the back of my cards:

Back of my business cards

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What does Jason think about recruiters?

July 6th, 2006

Today I had a technical recruiter ask me what I think about recruiters.  Hm.  No one has ever asked before.  I think he was asking me because of my experience working with recruiters as a job seeker, and then within the past few months as the owner of JibberJobber.  I have been able to talk with recruiters about different stuff and see a different side of them.  Well, it is such an interesting question that I figured I could blog about it today (with a Part 2 later).

When I first lost my job I knew about headhunters.  I didn’t know much about them, but I knew they were out there.  I called my uncle a few states away because he has worked with executive headhunters for years, and he gave me some info on how they work, how they get paid, etc.

I realized that headhunters/recruiters would be a big part of my job search. I found a few through the monster job board and contacted them.  One (from an apparently huge, world-wide company) had me come in for an “interview” – we talked for about 45 minutes, he gave me some forms to fill out because I would be an employee of their company (if they could get a contract job for me), and I left feeling pretty good.  I had someone that was going to go out and find me a job!  That was pretty cool!

One week later I called him and said “hey, this is Jason, I’m just wondering if there is anything new on your end.“  He said “Jason who?  Huh?“  he had to look through his files to find me, and read up on me.  I was so mad because it was just a week later, and he had me no where on his radar screen.  I realize I wasn’t his only client, and he was a busy guy, but this demonstration of his concern for me was way different compared to what it was a week earlier where he was asking for my SSN and asking me to sign on the dotted line.  I realized this was going to suck.  I think I called him one more time, and e-mailed 3 or 4 but NEVER got a reply back from him.  [if you are a recruiter, I imagine you are grinning on one side because he is your competition, and he sucks – and scowling on the other side because he is representing your trade]

Shortly thereafter I met with another recruiter – I don’t remember how I came across him.  I walked into his very small office which was full of energy.  He was a one-man show but I could tell from his office, whiteboard, desk etc. that he was a mover and shaker.  He had 2 or 3 rows of awards on his wall – you could just reach out and touch the success all over his office.  This, by the way, was my fav recruiter.  After I told him about myself (I had requested a face-to-face appointment with him) he said… and these words were golden for the rest of my job search… “Jason – you will find a job for yourself faster than I will find one for you.“  I didn’t quite like the message, I still thought he was going to work hard for me, but the honesty really opened my eyes.

This helped me understand that the recruiter isn’t my best friend, and that finding me a job is NOT his job.  That is the most important thing I’ve learned, in my job search, about recruiters.  Basically, they are a resource to me.  Early on I felt that I would have one, we’d have a great relationship, and I wouldn’t need any more.

In just a few weeks I went from the “sign on the dotted line” guy – who I felt would have me a job soon to the “I’ll see what I can do, but don’t hold your breath” guy – and about 27 other recruiters inbetween.

I have a lot of respect for recruiters, but I learned that:

  1. they don’t work for you
  2. you should not have just one recruiter (especially if you are looking really hard, and you have a high sense of urgency)
  3. you need to keep the relationship alive – I’ve found 2 that are the exception to that – very excellent and into the candidate – but many will call you when they have something
  4. they are professionals, and they have a job to do.  They are not your counselor, and they don’t like to spend a lot of time prepping you (they hope that you are already prepped and going to make them look good) – they have a job to do and sitting around chatting with you may be contrary to their own needs
  5. its probably a good idea to find out who the really good recruiters are and then let them know who you are BEFORE YOU NEED THEM.  It doesn’t hurt to have one call you at your office and ask you if you are interested in another opportunity. Just think of it as expanding your professional network :)

So my journey on how I feel about recruiters has changed from ideal to real – if you are a recruiter I hope you don’t feel slammed – this is just what my journey has been.  I fully understand that I’m a desperate job seeker, and many recruiters actually spend time working with passive candidates (that is, those that already have a job) – and the stories there are probably pretty different.

more on this later….

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