I got an interesting email from someone who has seen my Pluralsight courses… he says:
I’ve completed a couple of your courses on Pluralsight and have found them to be most helpful. Having been with the same IT consulting firm for almost 19 years, I’m doing a relatively “late career” networking/job search. Your courses (Build a Killer Brand, Career Management 2.0, Informational Interviews) have helped me jump-start a process that, frankly, has been difficult for me in the past.
One reason for the difficulty is because I am vocally handicapped, the result of a work accident 24 years ago. Networking in a crowded, noisy room such as at a conference is just plain difficult. Presently, I’m doing the informational interview thing and the one-on-ones are much easier than talking to someone at a large function. But I just can’t easily walk up to someone and strike up a conversation when there’s background noise.
I’m wondering if you have any tips for someone like me who cannot easily project his voice and, if I have to, tire very easily.
What a great question. I imagine that Charles feels unique, and at a disadvantage. Here’s what I’ve learned: we all feel unique, and at a disadvantage. Every single job seeker I’ve met feels that way.
Well, not the ones who are Type A, and just starting their job search. But time has a way of wearing on you, and once you are at the third week, or the third month, you feel unique, and at a disadvantage.
I don’t say this to minimize Charles’ voice issues. Not at all. But I do want you (everyone) to know that everyone in this job search community feels inadequate, with challenges to overcome. Well, maybe there are those who don’t feel that way, but they are the weirdos :p
Anyway, what is my recommendation for Charles? I’ve had a couple of days to think about this, and here’s my advice:
Don’t worry about networking in groups.
That seems to be the crux of the “problem” from his email. He has this idea that you, as a job seeker, are supposed to go to network meetings and … network.
Well, that’s true. You should. But let’s redefine network meetings and network:
Redefining network meetings
The high impact network meetings might be job clubs (or job ministries, depending on where you live), industry or professional luncheons, meetings sponsored by a company with a special speaker, conferences, etc. These are places where there (a) are lots of people, and (b) is lots of background noise. You know who really has a hard time at these types of network meetings? Introverts.
But a network meeting doesn’t have to be a conference, event, etc. It could be much smaller, and more intimate.
When I read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi I realized that networking doesn’t mean meet a ton of people at a place, shake a lot of hands, collect a lot of business cards, and have a lot of superficial conversations with people I’ll probably not talk to again, even though there were promises like “let’s have lunch sometime!” Ah, sometime. That time in the future that never happens.
What I learned from Ferrazzi is that networking doesn’t have to be big-crowd and superficial. The goal, actually, is to start relationships and nurture relationships. For me, that happens one-on-one, and over time.
I hated the idea of networking because I thought it was big crowd, pass business cards, smile a lot, ask them about themselves (a la How To Win Friends and Influence People), and maybe… just maybe, have a second meeting in a more intimate environment.
But Ferrazzi gave me permission to ignore the benefit of inefficiencies (that is, that you could get a bunch of connections in a large group) and rethink networking at a one-on-one exercise. This realization was liberating.
How does this apply to Charles? Let me suggest that if being in a crowd where his voice isn’t heard because he can’t project is not fun, nor productive, that he goes with a different purpose. I almost wrote “that he doesn’t even go there, and do other networking stuff.” But really, if he can go to networking meetings and have face-time with people, he should. Having a physical presence is a good thing. But instead of thinking that you go to these big crowd networking events to talk to a lot of people, what if you went in with completely different goals?
When I go to a network meeting now, my goal is to talk to at least one person. But it has to be the right person. Let me give you an example… a few years ago I went to a really big, really noisy networking event. It was where all of the Pluralsight “authors” (or, content producers like me) met, with a bunch of the Pluralsight staff. The truth is, I have very little in common with the authors (except that we all spent a ton of time and energy making videos by ourselves… so there’s a camaraderie there), and really not much to talk about with the staff. I was kind of a black sheep at Pluralsight, not offering technical training (which was their core), instead doing these weird courses on how to listen better… soft skills as they called it, professional development as I would come to call it.
So why go? Who do I talk with? What is the reason to spend a couple of days out of my office and hang out with these guys?
I had ONE meeting that changed everything. It changed my relationship with Pluralsight. It changed the courses I would work on. It changed my enthusiasm for where they were heading. The meeting was so impactful that I realized I needed to get home, finish what I was working on, and then totally change directions with the content I was proposing.
That one meeting, with the right person, has impacted my work and my income every day for the last few years.
Instead of trying to meet as many people as I could, and “brand myself,” and get X number of business cards over the weekend conference, I went in with ONE question, and I wanted to ask someone who was in a position to answer the question with real knowledge (not just assumptions).
I found the person, asked the question, and the rest is history.
One question, one person.
How does this apply to Charles?
Let me suggest that when you go to network meetings, you fully understand the purpose of going. It is not for the food, it is not to get out of the house, it is not to be seen… it is to make the right one connection with the right one person. If you make a great connection with more than one person, great! Bonus!! But don’t fall into the trap that this is a numbers game and if you come back with less than ten business cards then you failed.
What’s your one question? Who’s the right connection?
If it were me, I would go in with the purpose of starting a relationship with someone who could help me move to the next level. I would probably try to eventually get an informational interview with that person, not then, but later, and then build that relationship. Or, get introductions from that person and have more informational interviews.
This is networking. Finding and building relationships over time. Networking is not being in a crowded room, competing for talk time. No matter what everyone tells you, you don’t have to go to networking events to network.
In fact, many of my JibberJobber users live in places where there aren’t appropriate network events they can go to. They might live in a town that doesn’t have any, or a city that has none of their peers or colleagues. They might be in such a specialized niche that there are only a few hundred, or a few thousand, people they should network with.
So what do they do? Well, in the olden days (a few years ago) they would go to industry conferences. Expensive and time consuming, but great to meet the right people. Today, a lot of what you need to do can be done online. While there are a number of sites to do this, LinkedIn is the 8,000 pound gorilla. There’s really no compelling reason to go to another site, at least at the beginning of your online networking ventures.
Here’s what I suggest to Charles: (a) know what his questions are, and then (b) find the right people he should talk to about those questions. Find them on LinkedIn and reach out to them, and start the relationship.
It might be just an email or message at first, but eventually he should get to the point where he is on the phone, face-to-face, or simply just having deeper and more frequent emails.
That is networking. Nurturing relationships with regular communication. It’s not strutting around a conference room like a peacock, showing off or acting extroverted… it’s real, meaningful relationships.
My guess is that Charles already knows this… but if he was like me when I started my job search (and when I first started networking), I had assumptions of what was successful and what was failure. Staying home, unbathed and on the computer (I’m talking about me, not Charles :)), was failure, especially when there was a networking event I should have gone to.
Ferrazzi’s book, and learning about relationships, simply gave me permission to do what I already knew I should have been doing: finding and nurturing relationships, one-by-one.
Deep down, I knew what to do, I just needed permission to not do what I thought job seekers did.
If that’s you, I give you permission to do what is right for you. If that is going to lots of meetings, great. But for many of you, it’s sitting behind your computer, using LinkedIn as a tool, finding the right people, and then starting your professional relationship with them.
These are ten things I found to be interesting about Dick Bolles:
Dick Bolles was really, really tall. I am about six foot tall and he seemed to tower over me. Maybe he was my height, but he seemed to be a giant of a man. However, he was so kind and gentle that I didn’t feel like he was physically imposing.
Dick Bolles was an ordained Episcopal minister… until he quit. I knew the first part, but only recently read about the last part. Apparently there’s a rule that you can’t get married to a fourth wife, after three divorces… Dick didn’t take this well and tried to fight it, then just renounced his ordination to marry the lovely Marci (who was at lunch with us).
Dick Bolles, for many years, did all of his own writing and editing. He told me one of his agreements with the publisher was that they would not touch his finished product at all…. that means no other editor would change anything. In our intervew (see yesterday’s post) he said that that had changed towards the end, but for many years it was 100% Dick Bolles.
Dick Bolles was super smart. He was mensa-level smart. He was an Harvard alumnus where he studied physics, and an MIT alumnus where he studied chemical engineering. He was literally a member of mensa. When I had lunch with him he was in his mid-eighties, and he was one of the sharpest people I had ever talked to. He was fast, and could talk about a breadth and depth of topics, without skipping a beat.
Dick Bolles’ brother was murdered in 1976. He was an investigative reporter and was investigating a very rough crowd: the mafia in Arizona. Shocking? Very sad, and I can imagine that it was devistating for Dick to go through. The legacy of his brother, Don Bolles, lives on amongst reporters. He was uncovering a nasty part of society, and paid with his life.
Dick Bolles stumbled onto helping others in job search… it’s not what he set out to do. The title of his book came from a conversation he had with someone who said they were going to quit their job, and his response was “what color is your parachute?” Meaning, if you are going to do something so risky, what’s your plan? Have you even thought about the consequences of quitting?
Dick Bolles invited career experts to his home for multi-day retreats. These were small, intimate groups of career professionals, getting almost one-on-one attention from Dick. I wish I would have done one of those… I’ve only heard about them from some of my colleagues. To have someone of his status invite career experts to his home for so long, I thought, was really cool.
Dick Bolles personally updated his book every single year, for almost 50 years straight. The dedication to this one book had been a life passion for him. He passionately studied current events, reading papers, listening to experts and job seekers, and then would incorporate the latest and greatest in strategies, tactics, and tools into the next version of his book. Almost 50 years… that’s really quite remarkable for someone who could have just outsourced it many decades ago.
Dick Bolles was an international speaker, and obviously highly sought after. Again, he could have just rested, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, but he got on plane after plane, even for very long flights. He was a man who clearly believed in his mission of helping people.
Dick Bolles loved his wife and family. I only met Marci, and know nothing of his previous wives. But the way he treated her, listened to her, looked at her… it was love and respect. At our lunch I learned about why and how they met, and how she literally saved his life… hearing him tell the story was like reading a romance novel (I assume… I’ve actually never read a romance novel). His love was tangible. And so was hers. It was refreshing to witness their interactions.
BONUS: Dick Bolles was a Navy veteran. Of course. Service and action.
Dick Bolles, a great man who fulfilled a great mission, and really impacted the world.
Dick Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, passed away on Friday, March 31, 2017. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday.
I saw Dick Bolles present at a few conferences, but didn’t talk to him. He was always talking to someone else, and I wanted more than a handshake and a smile.
My time came when I was speaking in his hometown, Danville, California. He and his wife, Marci, came and were in the audience. I always have butterflies when I’m in front of an audience, but this was like an extra dose of butterflies. THE GURU of job search… perhaps the father of modern day job search, was in the audience. He has flown around the world giving presentations, and in the decades since he penned the first edition of What Color is My Parachute, he’s seen, and done, it all.
I got a great introduction from Susan Joyce, owner of Job-Hunt.org, and had my first real, great, conversation with him, on the phone. It was actually short, but it was real. By the time we were in Danville our relationship progressed to the point where going out to lunch was only natural.
After my presentation he and Marci waited while I shook hands and said goodbye to individuals from the audience, and then we piled into his Buick (an Enclave, I think). I was wondering what this legend who had sold more than 10 million books drove… just a Buick. We drove about 15 minutes away to one of his favorite Asian restaurants, where we spent at least an hour in awesome, awesome conversation. From that conversation I’ll never forget when he said:
“Jason, your message, and my message, are the same.”
I was immediately intrigued. First, that he listened to my hour and a half presentation and paid enough attention to get “my message.” Second, because he could concisely say what “my message” was (I would have been hard-pressed, at the time, to tell you what my message was). And third, because he, The Legend, said that it was the same as his message. Awesome…!
“And what would you say our message is?”
“Our message,” he replied, “is a message of HOPE. We show people that they have options, and when they have options, they have hope. When they think they have run out of options, they are hopeless.”
I processed this and realized that he had, in one word, explained why I got on the road. Why I got up in front of audiences, even though it was uncomfortable. Why I would face the skeptics and the hecklers, and put my ideas in front of brilliant unemployed professionals so they could analyze and evaluate and question them.
Dick Bolles put my calling, passion, and purpose into perspective.
When he said “HOPE” I immediately got it. You see, I was a hopeless job seeker. I was at the end of my rope, with no hope. It was a dark, depressing place to be.
Life without hope does not end well. Dick said that we, in our own ways, gave hope. We inspired hope. We showed people options, and gave them a reason to keep trying, to keep doing, and to move closer to a job, where they didn’t need to worry about hope vs. despair.
You can believe that since that lunch, I’ve thought about hope every single day. I have taken his message, our message, to heart, and have understood the gravity of what we do.
What an honor to have Dick Bolles, the legend, the man who has touched millions of lives, even put in near himself in our quest to change the world, one job search at a time.
Thank you Dick Bolles, for the live you have lived and the legacy you have left. There are many, many thousands of career professionals who have been influenced by you, your words, your mission, your example, and they are influencing others… sharing the message of HOPE.
I have heard, and have probably written about, the one purpose for a resume: to get you into an interview. But Jacqui’s post brings up some great points. She says the five functions of a resume, in addition to getting interviews, are:
Equips interview conversations.
Focuses your career message and saves you time.
Conveys your value to interview committee members.
Supports professional reputation.
Spurs deeper interview conversations.
Check out her post for deeper thoughts on each of those.
One of the most important things to understand about a resume is that the resume writing process is a process of self-discovery, understanding what value you bring to potential companies, framing your value proposition(s) in appropriate and compelling ways, and even gaining self-confidence that is grounded in fact.
If you didn’t get any of that from your resume writing experience, you might want to call a resume professional.
My friend, resume writer Robert Dagnall, has posted this a couple of times recently on Facebook:
The first time I saw it I didn’t think anything of it. But then, Friday morning it popped up again and I guess I was feeling a little philosophical.
What if, in a job search, you are chasing two different rabbits? Well, maybe that’s a bad example. In a job search you are likely working on multiple job opportunities at the same time, and you should be. You can’t go after one for months, and ignore everything else that comes up.
But maybe the job opening isn’t the rabbit… maybe the rabbit is not focusing enough. “What are you looking for?” “Oh, I don’t know, anything really. I can do anything.”
Sounds kind of dumb, doesn’t it? I hear that all too often. I’m not exaggerating.
But what if it’s true?
It usually is true.
That is either a symptom of (a) not understanding the importance of focusing, and worrying about missing out on something we haven’t considered. That is a real fear (Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO). Or, it’s a symptom of (b) not understanding the incredible (and seemingly unintuitive) power of focusing on a niche.
I was at a business seminar with small business growth coach Mark LeBlanc. I don’t remember his exact words but he said something that was profound. Something like “pick the line of revenue that it most important (or biggest, or whatever), and FOCUS on that one. Pretty much ignore the others (as far as marketing goes). The growth you’ll see from your first revenue priority will increase the other revenue lines.”
As a business owner I thought: that is scary. That seems negligent. Irresponsible.
But, as I thought about it, I realized that not putting enough marketing focus in one area really amounted to spreading yourself too thin in all areas. Giving a half-or-less effort on anything resulted in half-or-less results. But 100% focus on the right thing helped the right thing grow, and that growth resulted in growth in other areas.
It’s an interesting concept. It’s scary to think that you will focus on one and pretty much ignore others. The concept, though, is really encapsulated in the Confucius quote above… which rabbit do you chase? Which rabbit do you focus on?
When I was in my job search I remember “preparing” for an interview like this: Go to google, type in “how to prepare for a job search interview,” and then reading a dozen articles that pretty much said the same thing. I would try to learn a little something from each one, and then hurry off to my interview.
Let me save you time, money, and help you not lose the interview (which could easily cost you thousands, or tens of thousands): BUY THIS BOOK.
Thea talks about everything you need to know to prepare for your interviews. The best time to read this book is right now… even if you don’t have an interview scheduled.
Because the best interviewee will have prepared. And Thea walks you through the steps to prepare. Instead of researching online and finding bits and pieces, and spending too much time looking for the right, or even good, advice, just buy this book and go through each page with a highlighter. Have a notepad, or your computer, ready, so you can go through the exercises she presents.
I’ve interviewed enough people to know that there is a huge difference between an interviewee (or what recruiters call, a candidate) who has prepared and one who hasn’t. The difference is almost tangible.
As I was reading the book, of course I thought “this will help anyone who is getting ready for an interview,” but I had another thought: This book provides hope, and gives a vision, to someone who is in a job search. If you aren’t getting interviews you are hopeless (I know this from personal experience). This book helps you now that when it happens, you’ll be ready!
SWOT Analysis: This is another thing to google, if you are not familiar with it. It’s a common model used in business school… you basically do a study on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can do this on a company, or an industry, but in this case, you would do it on yourself. What are your strengths? Are you playing to them? Do they present you with any opportunities? What are your weaknesses? Do you need to work on them, or should you work on your strengths instead? What threats do you have (in your career) because of your weaknesses? This is a great way to get an objective view on how you match up against others who have your same job title.
Weekly Monitoring & Reflection: This might be the hardest thing in this whole strategy, simply because you would do it week after week, year after year. And you have to be, as Jim Collins would say, brutally honest. How are things going? How is the job going? How are your revenue streams? What if you lost your job today… are you ready? What can you do this week to prepare for a job transition? Are you happy? Are you satisfied? What should you do to have the lifestyle you want, or think you deserve? These are the types of questions you could ask yourself each week. Be honest in your response. My suggestion is that you answer them in a journal, so it’s not just a mental exercise of talking to yourself, but you have a record of your ups and downs and growth over the years.
The result of this step is, really, career management. You are gaining more control over your career. When a change happens in your job, you are okay, because you have been doing things for your career management…. branding, networking, etc. This should bring you peace of mind, and the feeling of control is a lot better than the feeling of despair.
The fifth step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is interview strategies. Interviewing is the concept that brings excitement and fear to every job seeker. This is not something that every job seeker gets to do, and sometimes, by the time they get to do it, they are so tired and worn down that they are desperate for any offer. The money has dried up and they go in just ready to say yes. Or, to beg and plead. In this step we are going to be more prepared, and not be so desperate. That’s not to say that we aren’t going to be ready to take a temporary job (or “step job”) to make ends meet, while we continue to find the next step in our career, but we’ll be ready and professional.
Specific STAR Development: This is similar to what we did in the first Step (Assessment), but now we are hyper-focused on creating these STAR statements (or, as I call them, mini-stories) specifically for This Job + This Company. These are short, but very powerful, and should become central during your interviews.
Company and Interviewer Research: This is, again, very focused, and you do it before the specific interview. When you get an interview scheduled, you go as deep as you can. This means online research (fairly easy) and more informational interviews/meetings (not as easy but more fun, and more valuable long-term as you make new connections and nurture relationships). Go into the interview ready to ask really smart questions (multiple Insider Information interviews I’ve done talk about the questions an interviewee asks).
Prepare for Sticky Wicket Questions: Some interviewers, in my experience, are not very prepared. Some are really prepared. The interview process can be kind of boring, if you are interviewing a lot of people. How will you answer an illegal question? How will you answer a stupid question? How will you answer a question you don’t know the answer to? These are great questions to think through, and prepare for, before you get into the interview.
Negotiations: Ugh… salary negotiations. If there’s a part of this whole process filled with drama and mind games, it’s probably this. There are books to read, tactics to study… but it just know that this is tricky. There isn’t one solid answer because we are dealing with humans… and humans are unpredictable and fickle. One person might have a rule of “never talking about it until they bring it up,” others say present a range, but others say a range really means the lowest value. Talk to someone who specializes in salary negotiation, and study up so you have some good responses when it comes up.
The result of this step is that we go into an interview with confidence, we perform well, we follow-up as a professional and not a needy, desperate leech. You might get one chance to win the interview… the last thing you want is to lose multiple interviews.
The fourth step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is Project Management. This is what most people skip to, without building the foundation that you have built since you’ve gone through the first three steps. When you think of a job search, this is typically what you think of. This is what a job search “looks like.” Knowing what you know now (from the first three steps) can you see why jumping straight here is a mistake? In this step there are two parts:
Weekly Goals: At one job club I went to they asked for metrics, like number of people talked to each day, number of interviews, etc. State unemployment insurance typically pays based on whether or not you are doing things that are measurable, each week. Some of those metrics are lame, some of them are too soft. You know how much time you can spend on your job search… what metrics make the most sense for you? My metrics would be heavy on the number of informational interviews, and very light on the number postings I apply to. Very light.
Strategic Job Search Methods: These are the tactics… this is going to job clubs and network meetings. This is calling people on the phone and having conversations or leaving voicemail messages. This is spending time on LinkedIn to find and communicate with the right contacts, but then getting out and not letting LinkedIn be a time sink. These methods are focused and purposeful, with the end result of getting closer and closer to a job. That means having the right contacts with the right people, while conveying the right brand. This doesn’t NOT mean busy work, or just going through the motions.
The result of this step is action and metrics. You will do things, talk to people, make phone calls, follow-up, have meetings and interviews… you’ll feel busy, you’ll feel exhausted, and many times you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. But at the end of the day you’ll know you put in a good, honest effort, doing the right things, and making progress. Get a job today? Perhaps not, but you did expand your network with the right people, and you have nurtured (read: progressed) professional relationships. Do this stuff right and you’ll probably start having a lot of fun!
The third step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is Presenting Yourself. This is the last of the “sharpen your saw” steps, and is critical as you prepare to get in front of people. This is where you take what we’ve done in the first two steps and you create some very specific, very targeted, very aligned marketing material… your personal marketing material. Listen, I have been to job clubs for over ten years… I’ve met with hundreds… thousands of job seekers. I’ve done tons of LinkedIn Profile critiques and have heard more 30 second pitches than you could imagine. Rarely do I hear or see personal marketing material that is pretty good. Please spend time on this step so you are not as cliche and poorly presented as most job seekers.
Verbal Pitch: When you first meet someone, what do you say? How do you present yourself? I’ve heard plenty of “pitches” and many… most… need help. They are too cute, but have no message. They are clever, but too jargony. They are without meat, and have no “what’s next.” In this step you should work on a 30 second elevator pitch that is flexible depending on the audience, a response to “tell me about yourself” in a networking group or an interview, and then what comes after that, in case someone says “Oh? Tell me more…” What are you going to say when you call someone on the phone, and they answer? Or, if you get to their voicemail? You can script and practice these, which isn’t to say that you are supposed to talk about a robot or not be able to think on your toes.
Marketing Plan: Classes are dedicated at universities on marketing plans, and usually have the 4 P’s (Price, Promotion, Place, Product). That might be a good start for you, but study “marketing plans” to see what else you should define in your plan. I suggest you don’t spend too much time here… I like planning and stuff, but you could really spend weeks and weeks understanding marketing plans and them applying what you learn to your own plan. Your marketing plan might be as simple as “Do these things daily, do those things weekly, spend an hour on follow-up each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” etc. Schedule things out, and then honor the schedule.
Informational Meetings: These have traditionally been called Informational Interviews… and are one of the most powerful proactive job search tactics that you could ever do. If I had start my job search today, after learning about job search stuff for the last eleven years, I would spend 90% of my time working on informational interviews. That is, finding people, having the meetings, asking for introductions, having more meetings, etc. There is definitely an art to these… it’s not a chew the fat meeting. They are very, very purposeful. There’s a course in the JibberJobber Video Library on Informational Interviews, and the topic comes up in most of the insider interviews I’ve done. What I really want you to take away is this: 90% of my time!
LinkedIn Profile, Resume, and Cover Letter: Isn’t it amazing that if you are doing each of these things sequentially we don’t get to the resume or LinkedIn Profile until the 12th step? Seriously… not jumping into the resume or Profile means that by the time we get there, we have a very good idea of why and how we’ll use them, with who, and what the messaging should be.
The result of this step is that we have real marketing material to share. We are ready when we meet someone at a networking event… we know what message we should share, and the words to use. We have confidence that the written marketing material we have prepared, from our business card to our email signature to the resume to our LinkedIn Profile, are on-brand and communicating the right messages. They aren’t going to distract from the real message, our brand, or decrease our chances of getting closer to having the right conversation with the right people. How are you feeling by this point? You feel focused, empowered, and READY!