“Struggling with trying to network with professionals”

March 13th, 2018

We got an email from user “L” last week with two issues… I want to address one today. He says:

“I am struggling with trying to network with professionals.”

Not a whole lot of information in the email… what kind of struggling? They aren’t responding to your calls or emails? Or, you don’t know how to approach them in the first place? Or, you actually get to have meetings with them but then nothing happens from there?

When I started my job search 12 years ago I learned that networking was the way to go and applying online was a waste of time. So, I tried to figure out how to network. The problem was that, as an introvert and a technologist, I’d much rather sit at home and “do my job search” efficiently than take hours and hours out of my day and routine to go to a network event, or meet someone at a restaurant. The “hours and hours” came from drive time, getting ready time, and arriving early and/or staying late.

Did I mention introvert? The whole process could be exhausting, with a healthy dose of concern about whether this would be a fruitful meeting or if people would just think I was an idiot (second guessing myself has been one of my top skills).

Sitting in front of a computer was much easier, much more comfortable, and seemed a lot more productive.

But everyone knew, and said, that you had to network. What if it just wasn’t working?

Maybe, I figured, it wasn’t that networking wasn’t working, but that I wasn’t understanding it and doing it right.

The turning point in my networking journey came when I read Never Eat Alone. I can’t recommend that book enough. This was THE book that changed my mindset on networking. It wasn’t something to do so I could benefit, rather it was something to do so everyone could benefit. I went into networking opportunities with a completely different attitude and goals. It had now become fun and exciting. Instead of getting to network events late and skipping out early, I was anxious to be one of the first ones there and one of the last to leave.

What because of this?

I remember one conversation where I pretty much had a job offer in the bag, and at a networking event told this guy about it and said he should interview, because he was definitely a better candidate than I was. He got the job, and I got immense satisfaction knowing that I had a small part in that.

Seriously, it was thrilling to give that away to him.

That was a manifestation of my change in attitude. I wasn’t in it for ME, I was in it for WE. I helped and I gave. I went from “What can I get” to “what can I give you,” which was great. But the next transition was huge. It was: “Hey, I heard you mention this… you need to talk to so-and-so. I’ll send you an introduction today.”

Here’s what that looks like:

  1. I started at: What can I get? I’m in this for me… and this is why a lot of networking feels sleezy.
  2. Then, I transitioned to: What can I give you? This is a question you’ll hear from networkers, and it shows they are helpful, and ready to invest some capital into the networking bank… maybe hoping to draw on it later. Nothing wrong with being here.
  3. But then, something magical happened when I didn’t ask that question, and didn’t wait for them to know what they wanted (heck, I didn’t know what I… why expect everyone else to know?): “I heard you say this… you need to talk to my friend, I’ll do the introduction today.” This goes into really listening and caring, and then opening up your network (risking, to a degree, your own reputation) and proactively making an introduction.

#3 is why I was so excited to go to network meetings. I couldn’t wait to connect people, and really, really help them. This went way beyond the superficial smile and handshake and “we should do lunch” (the lunch that never happens). This was meaningful, and it was fun.

Along the way my relationships with individuals grew and strengthened, my reach expanded, and I was fulfilled. It was AWESOME.

In summary, to a very vague question I give you two suggestions: First, get Never Eat Alone. I hope you absorb it the way I did. Second, transition from a “what can I get” goal/attitude to a “I’m going to give something to you today… not sure what, but I’m listening for where I can add value, and will give it” attitude. This gamifies networking, makes it fun, and puts you in a much different position.

Have a more specific networking question? I’m all ears. Leave a comment or email me.



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How I Found A Job (9/20): The First Interview

March 9th, 2018

I have one real suit. I know this is a casual company, but my personal policy is you dress a little nicer than the company, and I didn’t think a suit was out of line. I scoured the company pictures and videos and saw at least one where a guy was in a white shirt and tie… okay, suit should be fine.

BUT, is my suit outdated?

I am not a fashionista, something my kids point out almost daily (those shoes, dad??? That shirt with those pants??). They all have really nice style and I seem to be style-blind with clothes.

Would I walk in and my suit might fit just a little off, or the suit color be to 1900s, or the shoes and suit and tie and belt not look good?

Sometimes this actually does matter. Probably not as often as we think, though. But it was something on my mind. It was mental junk that could impact my “performance” at the interview.

I drove to BambooHR, planning to get there about 20 minutes early. If there was traffic or a car accident this would have been a problem… 12 years ago I would have left to be there about 45 minutes early. But I figured 20 minutes would be good. I had watched every BambooHR video I could, read more blog than I could count, and scoured their site and Instagram and Youtube for any information that would help. I also had the job posting practically memorized.

I felt ready, and this took my nerves down a bit.

Getting a new job is such a life changing event. Do everything you can to land the right job for you. Take it very seriously and realize that you have but a few minutes to impress everyone, from the front desk person to the people in the parking lot to the person you interview with.

When I was a speaker I had a routine I’d run through before getting on stage… one of the things I would do is mentally chant LEAVE IT ALL ON THE FIELD! I would be done in an hour, and do everything I could to make it the most memorable, impactful experience for attendees. I took this same approach for my interview: leave it all on the field.

By the time I got there I was kind of exhausted. I had prepared very well, but I hadn’t slept well. But I was going to do the best I could in the few minutes I got.

I went to check-in met one of the company founders (and got him mixed up with the other one, thank goodness I didn’t mention his name), and then Rusty came down to meet me. With a smile as big as his personality, we exchanged pleasantries and went to his office.  For the next hour or so we had an indepth conversation about my background, history, experience, and things I had done.  He put a lot of our conversation on the white board, which I thought was cool and interesting. It was insightful to see what he captured from what I said, and if he wrote something that I felt might be incomplete later I was able to drill down on that.

It was fun, honestly, and going through my accomplishments over the past 12 years (and a little pre-JibberJobber), I felt like YEAH, I am pretty accomplished! How in the world did I do 3 books, create a professional speaking business, run a startup, and do 30 Pluralsight courses?  And a few other things here and there… wow, I wasn’t as incompetent as maybe I had thought.

Before I knew it I was headed back to my car. It went well. Actually, it went REALLY WELL. I can’t imagine having done it any better.

I left the office knowing that I would likely come in on Thursday to meet with two more people, and hopefully soon after that I’d hear, if they liked me, about an offer.

Time to wait. And as I mentioned earlier, time to apply to other places, because if I didn’t get this perfect opportunity I’d be crushed. So I was already starting to put guards in place to deal with that.


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How I Found A Job (8/20): The Interview Process

March 8th, 2018

When Rusty and I got on our first phone call he said he’d like to have me come in and interview with him directly. This was a very important role and he wanted to get going as soon as he could.  Could I accommodate his quick-turn around schedule? DEFINITELY. This is RIGHT, and I’ll do what I can to make it easy and smooth for him.

Normally, I think, I would have had a phone screen with a recruiter, and maybe a Hirevue interview… but could I come in on Monday morning?

I’ll be there.

The speed this was happening was another sign that this was serious, and he looked at me as a good fit. It was exciting… but the problem was it was more information to help me fall more in love with this company.

The last company I fell in love with (12 years ago), after the interview, I started to mentally do the work.

This time I fell in the same trap. I couldn’t sleep at night, and was waking up at 4pm. My mind was going.

Please let this happen. Please let this work.

By this time, as I learned more about the company, I had already mentally discarded all of the product manager jobs I was applying for (and hadn’t gotten any positive response from).

Nothing was interesting to me anymore, except being on this team, in this company, to change the world.

Please, let it happen.

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How I Found A Job (7/20): Responding to Their First Outreach

March 7th, 2018

The first communication I had from anyone at BambooHR for this job was shocking.

It was a personal LinkedIn message from the hiring manager that was not cold or off-putting, not impersonal or prescribed.  It was also flattering, and showed that he had looked at my LinkedIn Profile and saw that I might be a perfect match.

I was blown away. I was flattered.

After all of the cold communication or non-communication I had from the other companies I had applied for, I was in shock. I showed my wife who said “he probably says that to everyone who has applied.”

Maybe.  Maybe he just had that personality, but I didn’t think so.  The question he asked is why I was interested in that role? Me… the CEO of JibberJobber, someone who had pushed out 30 Pluralsight courses… why in the world would I be interested in that role?

I responded thusly:


It took me a while to write that. I am a prolific writer, they say, and I wanted to write a novel. HIRE ME! PUT ME IN, COACH!  Alas, a lot of writing and backspacing, and that is what I came up with.

This was a bit nerve-wracking, because by this point I found the perfect role at the perfect company. I could make a difference in a company that was making a difference in the world. They had almost ten years of purpose and I would add value, based on my eclectic experience that others couldn’t understand.

But Rusty understood. And he reached out to me and treated me with dignity. I don’t need my ego stroked, but every job seeker knows that being treated with dignity, as a human, is rare.

If there’s anything you can take away from this (today’s post), it is this: Treat your communication as very special, and spend time writing and cleaning your messages. Make sure you know what you want to say, what you don’t need to say (and would only be a weird distraction), and send THE RIGHT message.

But then, stop second guessing yourself and hit send.

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How I Found A Job (6/20): Is BambooHR Really A Target Company? And Applying Online

March 6th, 2018

Yesterday was the day at my new job at BambooHR where I could state my tenure in months instead of weeks. I’m on Month Two.

In the last post I talked about finding this job, Program Manager, at BambooHR. But I had to go through some mental wrestling to come to terms with this. The companies I had been looking at were more familiar to me (I heard about them a lot from friends, and drove by them all the time). The commutes would have been awesome, as I mentioned. And it would have put me into the product manager network locally, a group I found a little hard to network into. Remember, being an entrepreneur is not looked at as a benefit by a lot of corporate people.

I had to ask myself, was BambooHR really a target company for me?  Back in 2017 they included this very blog as one of their top 25 HR blogs. I was a lot more familiar with their industry and customer and user (and the issues HR faces) than a high interest rate lending company or a contact lense company. I’m sure I would have settled in and done a great job, and enjoyed those… but there would be a few learning curves.

That’s part of career management, though: learning, adapting, etc.

BambooHR was perfect, with one little exception: the commute.

Going from a down-the-hall commute to a twenty something mile commute would mean changes. I’d be in traffic… rush hour! Bleh!

We have the exact right number of vehicles for our family… as long as I don’t need a car :)  That means a $5,000+ expense so we don’t have to double up… plus the cost of insurance, gas, etc. to add a new car. Double bleh.

When I put everything on paper, though, BambooHR was definitely a great option. In fact, something weird happened: As soon as I applied to BambooHR, every other company and opportunity because completely uninteresting to me. When I read the posting again and again, and slept on it and then read it again, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, anywhere else.

This was made for me, and meant to be!

So I applied. Online. You know, that thing some experts say to avoid at all costs? What if my resume got overlooked like it had from other companies? What if it got lost? What if, what if, what if…

All I knew was that I had now pretty much invested all of my hope in this one company and one job.

Because of what happened 12 years ago, when I was sure I had found the right job at the right company, and then I got the horrible, cold email saying they chose someone else, I knew that I couldn’t trust that this was the one. I had to keep doing things … the right things, in my job search. So, as hard as it was, I kept looking, and kept up my job search.

This was good because I needed to do something while I waited. And keeping my job search going helped me feel like I was doing something right, especially if this fell through.

I should mention, the application process on BambooHR was pretty sweet, which is good, because it was their software that they sell to others for applications :p Don’t you hate all of the online application pages that feel like they suck the soul out of you? That’s not the experience I had applying online.

I hit send or submit, and then crossed fingers… hoping.. waiting…

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How I Found A Job (5/20): When I Finally Was Open To Other Weird Opportunities

March 2nd, 2018

I mentioned that I had a small targeted list of companies, but as my job search went on I expanded my list to even include long-commute companies. Ugh. What was the world coming to?

The same thing started to happen with the actual roles. Kind of. I saw some roles where I thought “Hm… maybe I could do that. I’m certainly qualified, but would I enjoy it?”

I really wanted to stay in software development as a product manager.

Apparently, hiring managers didn’t want me to. I was having flashbacks from 12 years ago, with all of the rejection, where I had the self-doubt thoughts. I’m worthless. No one wants me. I really am not competent. I can’t do this job. It’s clear that I should just go get a burger flipping job (even with my CIS and MBA degrees, and almost 2 decades of experience in software).

It was at this point where I thought “Okay, time to be honest. Let’s focus the resume more on product manager.” Or, what were my other options?

I opened my job posting alerts and saw a job for Program Manager. I don’t know what that means. At Microsoft it’s what they call Product Managers, but really, what is a program manager? I don’t want to manage a program… is it outside of software?

But then, I look and it is at one of my top target companies. So I open it and read the duties/expectations and find that every single thing list (with the exception of one, which turned out to be a copy/paste error from another job posting) was a perfect fit for me. They wanted someone who would create (YES!) and build (DOUBLE YES!) a totally new program that had to do with stuff I’ve been doing for the last 12 years.

There was a bit of software involved, and later I’d learn that my (future) boss was a product manager for 20 years (!!), but I’d get to take something else that was a passion, thought leadership and personal and corporate branding and blogging and videos and courses and speaking, and build it out like I have at JibberJobber, at my target company.


It was just too perfect.

So, I applied. I didn’t tweak my resume (I might have changed the name from product manager to program manager, I don’t remember), and I applied. I gave myself a 20% chance of hearing back because that is where my mind was. No one cared… why would this be different. Even though this was a perfect fit, my mind had already discounted me as as candidate.

But I applied anyway. It was the first time I applied to something that was not software product development. And it would be the last time. This was my “out.” This was my dream job. I just had to get someone on the inside to see that and believe I was the right person.

My point? In your job search you should get hyper-focused on companies and opportunities. But, as you learn more, be open to other right opportunities.

It may feel weird at first, but who knows? This job search is a journey, definitely not a destination. And as journeys go, things can change. Be open to the change. Be ready to take a detour. It might just be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

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How I Found A Job (4/20): Is Your Resume Lying?

March 1st, 2018

My resume was lying, kind of.

No, it did not have lies on it. It was not fictitious. But it was not true to the job I was applying for.

I knew that I could make some tweaks and make it more of a product manager resume, and I’d probably get more replies and interviews.  But I didn’t.

My ego was in the way.  Seriously. And, a part of me was afraid to be successful in my job search. Double seriously.

My resume was okay. I’d give it a B+. For a targeted product manager resume I’d give it a C. Not because it didn’t have product manager stuff on it, but because I knew there were tweaks I could have made to make it much more appealing for product manager roles.

I say this not to boast, but it was the reality of my search. I knew I could have tweaked that one thing and gotten better results. But did I really want better results? I was still conflicted about getting a job…

Anyway, here’s the point of today’s post: YES, your resume should be tweaked. Get it hyper-focused on the role/title you are applying to.

The purpose of your resume is to make it past the screeners. That might be a recruiter, it might be a hiring manager, it might be technology (ATS). If you are one of 50 (or one of 500) and there are others that are clearly better positioned than you, according to the resumes, then you lose. It’s as simple as that.

My first job, as a hiring manager with a lot of applicants, is to figure out who I should focus on. If I have 5 or 10 that are perfect matches on paper then I focus on those, as opposed to those who are near matches but have weird stuff and distractions.

Those distractions might make you feel good (look, it shows more about your breadth or depth) but they are LIES at this point.

Stay super hyper focused. Don’t let your ego dictate your resume content. Use the resume as a tool to get you into interviews…. not as a brag sheet to be read at your funeral to show how cool and accomplished you were.

Ignore this and you will be, like I was, passed over too many times.

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How I Found A Job (3/20): Target Companies Are Critical

February 28th, 2018

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a couple of favorite companies based on location (practically no commute). I was really quite interested in working at either of those companies because I thought they had good stuff (even though I’m not completely enamored by what they do),  I could learn a ton, and working there would allow me to spend time on JibberJobber and not on commuting.

The opportunities at one were far and few between… they just weren’t looking for product managers. The other company regularly had openings but for some reason I didn’t make it far (I think I know why… that is tomorrow’s blog post). I even had a first, and then a second interview at one of the companies. But I didn’t get past that, I got the cold, horrible, inhuman rejection letter. I have strong feelings that candidates (aka job seekers) should not get cold inhuman letters the farther they make it down the interview process.

I have a whole collection of those letters.

At least I was making more progress in this job search than I had 12 years ago, right? Hurray. I was still getting rejected.

I got to the point where I opened my target company list and looked at companies further away… up to an hour commute. This was not a fun idea, but hey, if it was the right thing then I’d do it.

In the back of my mind I had a target company, BambooHR (spoiler: this is where I got hired!), but I didn’t see any product jobs from them. So while I thought it would be awesome, there didn’t seem to be anything there.  Another target company, one of the few HR companies in SLC, couldn’t understand that I wanted a job and wouldn’t do JibberJobber at work. I knew the founders, had lunch them more than once, and thought this would be a good and fun conversation. Instead I got a cold reception during the first interview (one lady left half way through (without an explanation), ask me what I really think about that), and then in the VP interview he was completely hung up on me having a side hustle.

That was demoralizing, but it was a learning experience. From then on, when an interviewer asked about JibberJobber, I had the perfect set of answers to draw from.

Having a list of target companies was critical. This helped me focus my time on the right places and not get lost looking at everything that came along. It helped me focus my research time on their opportunities and industries, and figure out who people where that I could have conversations with. Sometimes, in my research, I’d come across another company to add to my list. My list grew, but it was a very particular and focused group of companies.

Want to know the real power of this? If you have ever been asked “How’s your job search going?”, you need to read this article I wrote on LinkedIn:

The Best Answer for the Worst Question in Your Job Search

This is where you can REALLY get value from having your targeted company list!

If you don’t have a target company list, stop everything and create one NOW!

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How I Found A Job (2/20): Job Postings and Purposeful Online Applications

February 27th, 2018

I talked about using job postings and job alerts in my job search. Yes, I could have networked. In fact, I did go to a couple of meetups of product managers. But I am an introvert and going to a new group of a bunch of people with shiny business cards was not comfortable for me. I would go to as many as I could, I told myself, but they were about once a month, and I didn’t want to make slow progress based on their schedule.

I was also reorganizing my business and figuring out which of my tasks to turn over to who, and what projects to finish up in hopes that I would have a job, and what systems to put into place so things could go smoothly while I was gone. I was enormously busy and very focused on getting my own house in order.

So, I turned to job boards to see what good alerts I could create. I had learned years ago that browsing job boards was a huge waste of time. Not to mention the emotional roller-coaster that you rode throughout the day (oh! This one is perfect!). Instead, I used the alerts to do the looking for me and just spent a minute each day seeing if there was anything interesting.

I found that LinkedIn had the best postings FOR MY LEVEL AND LOCATION. I’m not saying LinkedIn will be best for you, but it was for me. There might be a better board for you based on where you are and what you are looking for.

When I saw a job that looked good I’d spend the time applying (which has got to be one of the lowest points of a job seekers day… the online application process still sucks with too many job board software platforms). But I’d also go onto LinkedIn and learn what I could about the company and look for networking opportunities and introductions. I’d go to the company website and learn about what they do and generally soak up anything I could about the opportunity.

I remember one company had a picture of their company meeting… it was a 50ish year old owner and all the rest looked like they were 20 year old cross fit people. This was a software company. It was the one place I applied where I thought there was no way I’d get in (I am 44 and was recently diagnosed with “Dad Bod”). And I didn’t.

I was very interested in two companies that are practically in my backyard. I wasn’t bought into their culture or their products/offerings (not a meaningful change the world opportunity, which I was interested in), but the commute!!!  To die for. I watched those like a hawk but unfortunately didn’t get far with either of them. I have close friends that work at both companies but frankly that didn’t help. (I didn’t leverage them much, though)

My strategy was to use the job board tools as tools, not as my lifeline, and then do other things that were important (for me: wrapping up and transferring many duties at JibberJobber, which I still oversee). When you build a project you have many tools, and you use them each for what they can do. Job boards are a tool not to be ignored, but they aren’t the only tool.

Speaking of tools, one night my wife asked me “are you using JibberJobber to track all of this stuff?”  The answer: Yes, of course, definitely. All of the important and relevant stuff I was doing in my job search was put into JibberJobber. Definitely. It was cool to use my own product as a real job seeker :)

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How I Found A Job (1/20): Knowing What I Want And Focusing On That

February 26th, 2018

This is the first of many posts where I start to share my journey of having gone from a career as an entrepreneur to actually getting a day job with a commute and a salary. I have run JibberJobber for almost 12 years now but along came an opportunity, at just the right time, that landed me a job.

I have written on this blog that I believed I was unhireable. This is for a few reasons, including all of the bashing I’ve done on the job search and hiring process. Fortunately I’m in a position where I can still be involved deeply in that conversation. I’ve also thought I’ve been unhireable because I’ve sunk myself into entrepreneur mode, and I’ve learned that if there’s any group of people who are more untouchable than an out-of-work job seeker, it’s an entrepreneur (especially one who hasn’t sold their business).

Alas, here I am, employed (and running JibberJobber as my “side hustle”), and I want to walk you through the journey. I’ll leave out the pre-pre-part, where I went through a lot of soul searching and guilt and other feelings about even getting a day job. Maybe I’ll do that another time.

When I figured out it was time to look for a job I reached out to Rob Merrill, a solid friend and personal adviser (he’s wicked-smart), and said “what kind of job/title would I even look for?” Again, no one wanted to hire a generalist entrepreneur.  He said clearly it was Product Manager, that I am one at JibberJobber, and that’s what I should look for.

I thought, yes, of course, that’s how I can package myself. And it is what I love. And then I remembered that is exactly what I was looking for years ago in my first job search!

So I went and set up some job alerts in Indeed and LinkedIn. I set up a few elsewhere but those were spammy crap, and the quality of leads were F, whereas what I got from LinkedIn were A and Indeed were B-.

There’s been plenty of talk about job postings, even on this blog. I’m a believer that if you apply online all day (like I did 12 years ago) you are spinning your wheels and wasting your time. But, I’ve also stated plenty of times (and did a course or two on this) that job postings are a great way to learn about the needs and strategic direction of a company. Job boards could be a super place to do company and industry research. And while a good deal of postings are already filled by the hiring manager’s friend or an internal worker, that’s not always the case.

Some job experts say to look for opportunities as opposed to jobs. The idea is if you see a lot of openings in Marketing at your target company, you can start to piece together information you gather and learn there is OPPORTUNITY in marketing, even if a particular job isn’t posted (maybe it will be soon hasn’t been yet.

My first task, though, was to get really honest with myself and define my niche role. I can do a lot of things (for 12 years I’ve worn many hats, and for the few years before that I was General Manager (doing a lot of things) and before that IT Manager (doing a lot of things with technology, including development and running a dev team).

I found 12 years ago that being too general and open was too confusing for hiring managers and recruiters. If they were looking for a widget spinner they didn’t want to see a resume that said “I do widget spinning and knife making and pie eating and water surfing and finger painting and… ”  They were most interested in the resume that said “I am a master widget spinner, here are all the widget spinning experiences I’ve had…”


You look at your master widget spinner resume and think “but if they only knew, I have so much more to offer! I want to tell them about this and that and the other, and then they’ll see how valuable I can be to their organization!!”

There is definitely a time to share that information, but I think when you want to get your dream job you figure out how you are a perfect hand-in-glove fit for that dream job, and focus on that.

I know, just reading this, it seems obvious, but you have to do your own soul searching and ego checking, and that can be an enormous job. But it’s the right job for this point in the journey. Get help… I had to. I had to have someone I trusted, and someone in the know (a recruiter!) help me, the job search guy who had been doing this for more than a decade, get clarity about myself and my own direction.  Don’t do this alone.

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