Yesterday I wrote about Dick Bolles, and said it’s “the end of a legacy.” Perhaps I should have written “the end of a legend.” Or, the next chapter of a legend.
From the comments on yesterday’s post, and throughout the internet, it’s clear that this man was the father of the modern job search, and that he impacted many, many people. Great tributes have been written about him.
I found a 32 minute video when he was at Google, doing a presentation titled “How to decide what you’ll be doing five years from now.” Check it out here.
Years ago, when I was doing the Ask the Expert interviews, Dick graciously agreed to be a guest on my show. You can watch it below… but if you do, you’ll notice the first 20 minutes I was flying solo.
That was not planned.
Here’s what happened: I had been in touch with Dick, the consummate professional, about being on my show. He readily agreed, and I didn’t want to hound him with reminders. I was very sensitive about giving him enough information without him feeling like I was harassing him. I was sure that he would come, be on time, etc. After all, he had probably done this a gazillion times.
So I started the webinar and had a great audience. Questions were coming in for him, and you could feel the excitement build. But Dick wasn’t there yet.
I emailed him, I even called him… but nothing. No response.
I remembered that he was in his mid-t0-late eighties, and I worried that perhaps he had…. passed away. This was about four years ago… I think he was 86 or 87. Was my show going to be the way that everyone knew he had passed away?
I hoped not. I wanted to interview him, and learn from him!
For twenty minutes I ad-libbed, I sweated, I worried, and I wondered. That was a LONG twenty minutes.
Then, thank goodness, Dick joined the call. He was apologetic, and I was relieved! He was ALIVE!
He said he was late because he stayed up all night working, on deadline, on the next version of his book, which was due the morning of our call. He fell asleep at his desk (that made for an interesting visual), and just barely woke up.
Did I say I was relieved? Not for me, nor for the interview, but that Dick Bolles was okay!
Here’s the interview… I was amazed that he brought new-to-me information and ideas.
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.
If you have a job right now, you passionately want to believe in it… that it will last. At least for you.
If you are unemployed right now, you are likely soured on the whole concept, realizing it’s a farce.
Back in 2008 (maybe earlier) I had an epiphany: having a JOB (or as some people have called it, Just Over Broke) is not bad. But relying on that one job to be around forever, and to meet your financial needs (not wants), can be really risky.
When I lost my job, on Friday the 13th in 2006, I had invested too much of my personal and professional life into that one job. I invested myself into that role, company, team, and outcome. And when the job was taken away from me, I was left with nothing.
I counted on job security, when I should have been working on a personal income security strategy.
What is that?
It is a strategy that helps me (and my family) have the income I need (and want), with a plan for the future.
What does that look like?
If you take a purely professional, non-entrepreneurial position, it looks like a great, solid career that doesn’t happen by accident. You have gotten the right education and continuing education (training, certificates, etc.). You know, and are known by, company and industry executives and movers and shakers (including those that work for the competitor). You carefully craft a branding strategy and work to share your brand appropriately. You have taken on extra responsibility at your company, and are known as someone who gets the job done, someone who others want on their team, etc. You are pleasant and very competent, and other people wonder how your team, project, or company could ever survive without you. From the outside, it looks like you have been lucky, a lot, in your career.
If you take a non-traditional position, you are a great worker, and you have side gigs. You might have rentals, or sell cupcakes on weekends. You might manufacture something in your garage, or consult. Your job is a one aspect of your income, but you are excited about, and empowered by, other revenue streams that you have created. If you lose your job, you have other things to fall back on, and you wonder “should I look for another job, or should I just hit this other stuff really hard?”
Those two ideas address the money-making side of things. The other side is what do you do with your money (how do you spend it), and your debt.
When you get a bonus, how do you spend (or, invest) it?
How is your retirement account?
How much credit card debt do you owe?
When will your house be paid off?
When will you pay off your student loan?
When will you be debt-free?
Income security has to do with how you earn money, how you spend money, and as important, how you think about money (ie, is it “evil”?).
I’ve been talking about income security for a long time. I invite you to seriously think about what you can and should do to increase your personal income security. I am… because I want financial peace of mind, for now and for many years to come.
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.
Now don’t get all excited that I’m going to bash the job search process… I know there are plenty of things that stink. Why recruiters don’t get back to you, why a job application page doesn’t keep you updated on your progress, why salary discussions are so confusing and lame, why job seekers feel so disrespected (like 3rd class citizens).
There’s plenty to complain about… indeed, this is friction. But that is not in your control… what is in your control is the friction you produce… the friction you give off. And that’s what I want to talk about, because it’s keeping you from making progress in your job search.
“Can you help me find a job? I’m open to anything.” That is too vague… to many unanswered questions, and leaves me to do the heavy lifting. This is friction in your communication, and my (as someone who should help you) experience.
“No one wants to help me.” This was a sad comment I got from someone in one of my presentations a few years back. Her daughter was there, and she said that no one wanted to help her, either. Friends, family, neighbors, etc. All were leaving these two out to dry. The problem is that it makes me, as someone who should and could help, wonder what’s wrong. Are they bridge burners? Are they offensive? Do they have serious problems that make them repulsive? Even if none of those are true, the simple, sad comment makes me wonder if getting involved with either of these two is going to get me in trouble.
“Will you look at my resume and tell me what you think?” Listen, too many job seekers try this tactic, and I personally find it offensive. Why? Because they don’t care what I think. I’m not their proofreader, they are trying to get me interested in them and get this resume to the right person. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that, but I feel like they are being deceitful… and if they aren’t completely honest with this request, what else will they be deceitful about? Simply be honest and say either “I’m getting ready to send my resume out, and want to make sure it’s perfect. I know you aren’t a resume writer, but would you mind taking five minutes to look at this to see if you can find any spelling or grammar errors, or anything out of place?” That is a direct, specific request, and I know what you are after. But seriously people, if you want more than a spell-check, then ask for what you want, like this: “I’m looking for my next opportunity, and I’d love for you to see if my skills and experience can help at your company, or with anyone you know and can introduce me to.” Ask for what you want, and don’t try to insinuate too much.
The way you dress, the way you look. Always a sensitive subject, I know. Who am I to judge how you look? But realize that humans are very judgmental. It’s just the way it is. I’m not saying you need to conform… you do what you need to do. But if you go to a networking meeting baring your midriff, I’m going to have a problem with that. I might find you attractive or repulsive, charming or weird, but the bottom line is, if you dress inappropriately for a networking meeting, I question your judgement, and if I hired you, my peers would question my judgement. I’m not ready to risk my career on your midriff.
Your choice of words and stories. Look, you might like the shock factor. Or you are the “funny guy.” I get that… more than I should. And I might laugh and react the way you want. You tell a joke, and I laugh. But, what if it is a nervous laugh? What if I’m laughing at you, and how audacious you are, not because of what you thought was clever? I might think of you as someone fun to hang out with on the weekends, but no way would I risk putting you in front of my customers, or changing the culture I’ve been building.
There are plenty of other things I could list here… hiring managers who have hired a lot have seen it all. The point is, identify what your points of friction are, and how you can reduce that friction.
Look, I know this is hard. You have to be honest with yourself (without beating yourself up, but enough to be ready for change). You have to implement change in your life, and that can take a while. In JibberJobber we are doing this, and it’s been a journey of eleven years.
If this concept struck a chord with you, check out the other times I’ve blogged about friction:
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!